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Old  English   Customs 


This  horn  served  for  the  calling  of  local  assemblies  at  Faversham,  Kent, 
circa  1300. 

Old  Snglish  Customs 

Sxtant  at  the  Present  Time 

An  Account  of 

Local  Observances^  Festival  Customs^  and 

(•Ancient  Ceremonies  yet  Surviving 

in  Great  Britain 


T.  H.  T)itchfield,  3U.A.,  F.S.A. 





I  HE  object  of  this  work  is  to  describe  all 
the  old  customs  which  still  linger  on  in  the 
obscure  nooks  and  corners  of  our  native  land, 
or  which  have  survived  the  march  of  progress 
in  our  busy  city's  life.  There  are  many  books 
which  treat  of  ancient  customs,  and  repeat 
again  the  stories  told  by  Brand,  Hone,  and 
other  historians  and  antiquaries ;  but,  as  far 
as  we  are  aware,  there  is  no  book  describing 
the  actual  folk-customs  yet  extant,  which 
may  be  witnessed  to-day  by  the  folk-lorist 
and  lover  of  rural  manners.  We  have 
endeavoured  to  supply  this  want,  and  to 
record  only  those  customs  which  time  has 
spared.  Undoubtedly  the  decay  has  been 
rapid.  Many  customs  have  vanished,  quietly 
dying  out  without  giving  a  sign.  The 
present  generation  has  witnessed  the  extinc- 
tion of  many  observances  which  our  fathers 

practised    and    revered,    and    doubtless    the 



progress  of  decay  will  continue.  We  have 
entered  upon  a  diminished  inheritance.  Still 
it  is  surprising  to  find  how  much  has  been 
left ;  how  tenaciously  the  English  race  clings 
to  that  which  habit  and  usage  have  estab- 
lished ;  how  ancient  customs  hold  sway  in 
the  palace,  the  parliament,  the  army,  the  law 
courts,  amongst  educated  people  as  well  as 
unlearned  rustics ;  how  they  cluster  around 
our  social  institutions,  are  enshrined  in  reli- 
gious ceremonial,  and  are  preserved  by  law ; 
how  carefully  they  have  been  guarded  through 
the  many  ages  of  their  existence,  and  how 
deeply  rooted  they  are  in  the  affections  of 
the  English  people.  It  is  really  remark- 
able that  at  the  present  day,  in  spite  of 
ages  of  education  and  social  enlightenment, 
in  spite  of  centuries  of  Christian  teach- 
ing and  practice,  we  have  now  amongst 
us  many  customs  which  owe  their  origin  to 
pagan  beliefs  and  the  superstitions  of  our 
heathen  forefathers,  and  have  no  other  raison 
d'etre  for  their  existence  than  the  wild 
legends  of  Scandinavian  mythology. 

I  desire  to  express  my  thanks  to  more  than 


sixty  correspondents  in  different  parts  of 
the  country  for  the  kind  aid  they  have 
given  me  in  collecting  information  for  this 
work.  It  has  often  been  difficult  to  deter- 
mine whether  during  recent  years  particular 
customs  have  become  defunct,  and  the  only 
method  of  acquiring  trustworthy  informa- 
tion has  been  to  communicate  with  local 
authorities.  I  have  been  fortunate  in  find- 
ing able  writers,  folk-lorists,  and  antiquaries 
in  all  parts  of  England,  who  have  kindly 
written  to  me  concerning  the  customs  in 
their  localities,  and  furnished  me  with  most 
valuable  information.  I  gratefully  preserve 
their  names : — 

Dr.  Williamson,  Surrey. 
Miss  Banfield,  Cornwall. 
Rev.  H.  Kingsford,  Worcester. 
V.  G.  Hewett,  Esq.,  Kent. 
S.  Andrew,  Esq.,  Lancashire. 
Rev.  G.  B.  Brooks,  Bucks. 
C.  J.  Billson,  Esq.,  Leicester. 
Rev.  Dr.  Lee,  Bucks. 
Rev.  W.  Norman,  Bedford. 
R.  M.  Dawkins,  Esq.,  Devon. 
Mrs.  Musters,  Notts. 
W.  M.  Brookes,  Esq.,  Yorks. 


Rev.  E.  H.  Goddard,  Wilts. 
Rev.  J.  B.  Jones,  Cornwall. 
Rev.  W.  Poole,  Hereford. 
Rev.  A.  J.  Edwards,  Beds. 
R.  P.  L.  Booker,  Esq.,  Eton  College, 
Professor  Rhys,  Oxford. 
Rev.  E.  Atkinson,  Cambridge. 
Rev.  W.  H.  Sewell,  Suffolk. 
Rev.  H.  F.  Howard,  Berks. 
T.  M.  Fallow,  Esq.,  Yorks. 
Rev.  J.  Moreton,  Cornwall. 
J.  BagnalJ,  Esq.,  Stafford. 
Rev.  E.  Bradley,  Lichfield. 
W.  H.  Evans,  Esq.,  Berks. 
Capt.  Dickinson  (Army). 
Major  R.  Holden  (Army). 
G.  F.  Alldritt,  Esq.,  Surrey 
Commander  Edye. 
Capt.  Anson,  R.N. 
Rev.  C.  P.  Winter,  Wales. 
Rev.  W.  C.  Box,  Northants. 
Miss  Righton,  Kent. 
Rev.  Canon  Beach  (Army). 
Miss  Cornwall,  Gloucester. 
Rev.  H.  J.  Carter,  Cambridge. 
W.  Cudworth,  Esq.,  Yorks. 
Rev.  C.  V.  Goddard,  Dorset. 
Lady  Read,  Wales. 
P.  Manning,  Esq.,  Oxford. 
Sir  George  Birdwood. 
Rev.  W.  G.  Rutherford,  Westminster. 
Mrs.  L.  Simonds,  Hants, 


E.  Armstrong,  Esq.,  Oxford. 

Rev.  Augustin  Ley,  Hereford. 

Rev.  A.  J.  M'Caul,  London. 

Rev.  J.  H.  Fleming,  Norfolk. 

Rev.  E.  C.  Bond,  Devon. 

Rev.  J.  L.  Francis,  Devon. 

W.  Norbury,  Esq.,  Cheshire. 

Rev.  W.  H.  Lyon,  Dorset. 

Rev.  C.  Farrow,  Yorks. 

Rev.  E.  A.  Chichester,  Surrey. 

Rev.  G.  Parr,  Middlesex. 

Rev.  W.  H.  Connor,  Northumberland. 

Rev.  G.  B.  Vaux,  Kent. 

Rev.  A.  W.  Headlam,  Durham. 

G.  E.  Dartnell,  Esq.,  Wilts. 

J.  W.  Bradley,  Stafford. 

Mrs.  Ogle,  Cheshire. 

Rev.  J.  B.  Robins,  Oxford. 

I  am  of  course  indebted  to  Notes  and 
Queries  >  which  has  for  so  many  years  devoted 
much  of  its  space  to  the  preserving  of  the 
records  of  ancient  customs.  The  labours  of 
the  Folk-Lore  Society  are  well  known,  and 
their  publications  have  been  very  useful  to 
me  in  the  progress  of  this  work.  Finally,  I 
have  to  express  my  thanks  to  Mrs.  Gomme, 
who,  in  conjunction  with  her  husband,  the 

first  President  of  the  Folk-Lore  Society,  has 


done  so  much  for  the  study  of  the  science 
of  Folk-lore,  and  who  has  most  kindly 
assisted  me  in  revising  the  proof-sheets  of 
this  work.  For  the  loan  of  the  illustration 
of  the  Faversham  Moot  Horn  I  am  in- 
debted to  the  editor  and  publisher  of  Mr. 
LI.  Jewitt's  book  on  Corporation  Plate. 



Midsummer -day  1896. 




The  decay  of  old  customs  —  Causes  of  their  decline  — 
Numerous  survivals — Not  confined  to  the  country — 
Pagan  origin — Importance  of  their  preservation — The 
calendar 1-7 


Christmas  customs— Mumming— Folk-drama  in  Devon, 
Yorks,  &c. — "Vessel  boxes" — Carol-singing — Fur- 
mety at  Christmas — Mistletoe  and  kissing-bush — Plum- 
pudding — Christmas-tree — Bell  customs  at  Dewsbury, 
&c. — Boar's-head  at  Oxford — Barring  out  in  Cumber- 
land— Mumping  and  goodening  on  St.  Thomas'  Day — 
Hoodening — "Picrous  day" — Burghead  custom — St. 
Stephen's  Day  and  stoning  the  wren — Yule  Doos  and 
local  cakes — Boxing-Day — Pantomimes — Christmas- 
cards  8-36 


New  Year's  Day  and  first-footing — Banffshire  custom — 
Wassail  bowls — New  Year's  gifts  and  good  wishes — 
Midnight  services— Queen's  College,  Oxford — Yorks 
custom — Local  rhymes  and  wassailers — Quaaltagh  in 
Isle  of  Man — Twelfth  Night  or  Epiphany — Plough 
Monday  —  Wassailing  orchards  —  Court  custom  — 
Hakey  Hood — Watching  animals — St.  Paul's  Day — 
Valentine's  Day— Islip  valentine— Customs  in  Berks 
and  Essex — Hurling  at  St.  Ives  .  .  .  37~58 





Lenten  customs — Shrove  Tuesday — Pancake-bell — Shrov- 
ing — Tossing  pancakes  at  Westminster — Devonshire 
rhymes  —  Welsh  survival  of  thrashing  the  hen — 
Coquilles  at  Norwich — Football  on  Shrove  Tuesday — 
Mothering  Sunday — Simnels — Care  Sunday — Palm 
Sunday  and  ball-play — Fig  Sunday — Spy  Wednesday 
— Maundy  Thursday — Good  Friday  and  hot  cross  buns 
— Skipping  on  Good  Friday  and  marbles — Guildford 
custom — Custom  at  St.  Bartholomew's  Church,  Lon- 
don— Blue-Coat  School  custom — ^Flogging  Judas — 
Cornish  custom  of  gathering  shellfish — St.  David's 
Day 5^-77 


Easter  customs — Pace-eggs — Clapping  for  eggs  in  Wales — 
Pace-egg  play — Biddenden  custom — Kentish  pudding- 
pies — Hallaton  hare-pie  and  bottle  kicking — School 
customs — St.  Mark's  Day  and  ghosts — Custom  at  St. 
Mary's,  Woolnoth  —  Hocktide  at  Hungerford  —  All 
Fools'  Day 78-94 


May  Day  customs — Magdalen  College,  Oxford — Sweep 
at  Oxford  and  Cheltenham — Bamptom  customs — 
Charlton,  Clifton,  and  Witney,  Oxon — Edlesborough, 
Bucks  —  Minehead  and  Hawick  customs  —  Saltash, 
Cornwall  —  Lancashire,  Leicestershire,  Cornwall, 
Gloucestershire,  Northants  customs  —  Old  Maypole 
still  standing— Gawthorpe,  Yorks — St.  Mary,  Cray  95-110 


Helston  Furry  dance — Rogation-tide  and  Ganging  Week 
— Beating  the  bounds  at  Malborough,  Lichfield, 
Oxford,  Leicester,  and  London  —  Royal  Oak  Day 
—  Wilts  custom  —  Selkirk  Common  -  Riding  — 
"Grovely" — Singing  custom  at  Durham  .  .  ui-122 





Club  feasts  at  Whitsuntide — Bampton,  Oxon— Morris- 
dancers— Irish  ' '  death  ride  " — Wakes  in  Lancashire 
and  Yorks — Rush-bearing  at  Oldham,  Ambleside, 
Grasmere — Hay  strewing  at  Braunston,  Leicester — 
Horn  dance  at  Abbot  Bromley — "  Flower  Sermon  " 
—Cornish  "  feasten  "  Sunday  ....  123-140 


Midsummer  Eve  customs,  Pontypridd,  Wales — Cornish 
customs — Bale-fires — Ratby  meadow-mowing — Reeve 
houses  at  Desford — Harvest  customs — Mell-sheaf  and 
Kern-supper — Kern-baby — The  "maiden" — Cailleach 
— Devonshire  "  Knack  "  —  "  Dumping  "  —  Harvest- 
bell — Horn-blowing  in  Hertfordshire — Harvest-songs 
—  Sheep-shearing  in  Dorset  —  Michaelmas  goose — 
Biddenham  rabbit — St.  Crispin's  Day  and  the  shoe- 
makers    141-159 


The  Fifth  of  November— Berks  songs— Beckley  and  Hed- 
dington,  Oxon — Town  and  Gown  at  Oxford — Harcake 
or  Tharcake,  Lancashire — Local  cakes — St.  Clement's 
Day — "Souling"on  All  Soul's  Day — Allan  apples 
at  Penzance — Butchers'  custom  .  .  .  160-172 


Local  customs— Gloves  in  Church  of  Abbots  Ann,  Andover 
— Dunmow  Flitch— Skimmerton-riding  in  Wilts  and 
Dorset — Riding  the  Stang  ....  173-181 





Holy  Wells— Scottish  superstition— Pin-wells— Rag-wells 
— Well-dressing  in  Derbyshire— Tissington  well-dress- 
ing— Endon,  Staffordshire — Youlgrave,  Derbyshire — 
St.  Alkmund's,  Derby  —  Wishing-wells  —  Walsing- 
ham,  Norfolk 182-189 


Marriage  customs — Orange  blossoms  —  Rice-throwing — 
Wedding-ring — Bride's  veil — Shoe-throwing — Custom 
at  Stoke  Courcy — Knutsford  custom — Chopped  straw 
at  weddings — Spur-peal — Holderness  customs — Kiss- 
ing in  Somerset — Yorkshire  Dale  customs — Races  for 
ribbons — Courting  customs — Taking  Day  at  Crowan — 
Cornish  miners' custom — Shooting  the  bride — The  Sin- 
eater — Funeral  customs — Passing  bell — Yorks  funeral 
biscuits — Corpse  roads — Crape  on  beehives — Telling 
the  bees — Burying  cheeses — Wheat  at  funerals  190-205 


Legal  customs — Clameur  de  Haro— Tynwald  Hill  and 
Manx  laws — Court  of  pie-powder — Court-leets  and 
Court-barons — Court  of  Exchequer — Borough-English 
— Gavelkind — Court  Leet  at  Dunchurch— Heriots— 
Judge's  black  cap — Gray's  Inn — Curious  custom  at 
Royal  Courts  of  Justice 206-219 


Civic  customs — Lord  Mayor's  show — Former  splendour  of 
civic  processions  —  Livery  Companies  of  London  — 
Civic  banquets — Loving-cup— Election  of  Master  of 
Girdlers'  Company — Skinners'  Company — Vintners' 
Company — Swan-upping  and  the  Dyers'  Company — 
The  salt-cellar  of  the  Innholders'  Company — Silver 
cradle — Colchester  oyster  feast — Huntingdon  and  the 
ox's  skull— Preston  Guild— York  and  Mayoress'  chain 

— Freemasons 220-231 




Bell-ringing  customs — Dewsbury — Pancake-bell — Bells  as 
guides — Pudding-bell — Harvest-bell — Gleaning-bell 
—Curfew— Passing-bell— Eight-hours'  bell  at  Ged- 
dington,  &c. — Calling  servants  at  Fulham  Palace — 
Auction  by  candle  at  Aldermaston,  Corby,  Warton — 
Market  Drayton— Coventry  and  Lady  Godiva— Pack 
Monday  Fair  —  Rockland  Guild  — Mock  Mayors- 
Statute  fairs— Gingerbread  fairs— Town-crier's  call — 
Relic  of  feudalism  at  Dalton-in-Furness — Survival 
of  old  charm — Colting  at  Appleby — Brixham  market 
custom — Raffling  for  Bibles — Witches'  obelisk— Gipsy 
custom — Ploughing  custom  ....  232-255 


Court    customs — Epiphany   customs — Maundy   custom — 

Coronation  customs — Royal  births — Royal  funerals  256-266 


Parliamentary  customs — Searching  the  House — Introduc- 
ing new  member  —  Hat  ceremony  —  "Who  goes 
home  ?  " — Royal  assent  to  Bills — Ceremony  of  opening 
Parliament — Installation  of  Speaker — Introduction  of 
new  Peers  in  House  of  Lords — Woolsack  .  267-275 


Curious  doles — Plums  at  Christmas — Dorsetshire  custom 
—Gloves  for  the  parson — Bread  and  cheese  for  all- 
Scrambling  charity — Figs  and  ale — Pork  and  petticoats 
— Old  love-feasts  —  Bull-baiting  —  Poor  seamen  — 
Lamps  in  London — Washing  Molly  Grime — Predilec- 
tion for  colours — Tombstone  charity — Prisoners  at 
Newgate — Redeeming  English  slaves — Maid-servants 
— Musical  bequest  —  "  Lion  sermon  " — Pax  cake  — 
National  events — Dancing  round  John  Knill's  tomb — 
Dole  at  Hospital  of  St.  Cross  at  Winchester  .  276-285 




Army  customs— Keys  at  the  Tower— Twelfth  Lancers  and 
hymn-tunes—Scotch  traditions  of  the  1st  regiment  of 
foot— Royal  Welsh  Fusiliers  and  St.  David's  Day— 
Inkerman  Day  —  Royal  Berks  —  Scots  Greys — 7th 
Hussars — 8th  Hussars — Regimental  nicknames— 1 4th 
Hussars— Coldstream  Guards— The  Buffs— Northum- 
berland Fusiliers  —  Suffolk  Regiment  —  Lancastrian 
Fusiliers— Relics  of  American  War — Royal  Canadians 
— Cheshire  regiment — 7th  Fusiliers — Duke  of  Corn- 
wall's Light  Infantry— Black  Watch  .  .  286-298 


Curious  tenures — Modern  customs— Conclusion        .      299-308 


(i.)  Words  of  Berkshire  mumming  plays  .         ,        .  309-314 

(2.)  Mummers'  play  at  Islip,  Oxon    ....  315-319 

(3.)  Mummers'  play  at  Bampton,  Oxon     .         .        .  319-326 

(4.)  Melodies  of  the  Morris-dancers  at  Bampton,  Oxon  327-331 

(5.)  The  Boar's-head  song  at  Queen's  College,  Oxford  332-333 


Old  English  Customs 


The  decay  of  old  customs — Causes  of  their  de- 
cline— Numerous  survivals — Not  confined  to  the 
country  —  Pagan  origin  —  Importance  of  their 
preservation —  The  calendar. 

MANY  writers  have  mourned  over  the 
decay  of  our  ancient  customs,  which  the 
restlessness  of  modern  life  has  effectually 
killed.  New  manners  are  ever  pushing  out 
the  old,  and  the  lover  of  antiquity  may 
perhaps  be  pardoned  if  he  prefers  the  more 
ancient  modes.  The  death  of  the  old  social 
customs,  which  added  such  diversity  to  the 
lives  of  our  forefathers,  has  not  tended  to 
promote  a  reign  of  happiness  and  content- 
ment in  our  village  communities,  but  rather 
to  render  rustic  life  one  continuous  round  of 
labour  unrelieved  by  pleasant  pastime. 

The  causes  of  the  decline  and  fall  of  many 
old    customs   are    not    far   to   seek,     Agri- 


Otd;\Rnglish   Customs 

cultural  depression  has  killed  many.  The 
deserted  farmsteads  no  longer  echo  with  the 
sounds  of  rural  revelry;  the  cheerful  log- 
fires  no  longer  glow  in  the  farmer's  kitchen ; 
the  harvest-home  song  has  died  away,  and 
"  largess "  no  longer  rewards  the  mummers 
and  morice  dancers.  When  poverty  stands 
at  the  door,  mirth  and  merriment  are  afraid 
to  enter.  Moreover,  the  labourer  himself 
has  changed ;  he  has  lost  his  simplicity. 
His  lot  is  far  better  than  it  was  fifty  years 
ago,  and  he  no  longer  takes  pleasure  in  the 
simple  joys  that  delighted  his  ancestors  in 
days  of  yore.  Railways  and  cheap  excursions 
have  made  him  despise  the  old  games  and 
pastimes  which  once  pleased  his  unenlightened 
soul.  The  old  labourer  has  died,  and  his 
successor  is  a  very  "  up-to-date  "  person,  who 
reads  the  newspapers  and  has  his  ideas  upon 
politics  and  social  questions  that  would  have 
startled  his  less  cultivated  sire. 

Again,  the  shriek  of  the  engine  has  sounded 
the  death-note  of  many  once  popular  festivals. 
The  railway-trains  began  to  convey  large 
crowds  of  noisy  townsfolk  to  popular  rural 
gatherings,  and  converted  the  simple  rustic 
feasts  into  pandemoniums  of  vice  and  drunken 
revelry.  Hence  the  authorities  were  forced 
to  interfere,  and  to  order  the  discontinuance 
of  the  festivals.  Such  has  been  the  fate  of 
such  popular  gatherings  as  the  Langwarthby 

The  Survival  of  Customs 

Rounds,  which  once  delighted  the  hearts  of 
the  Cumberland  folk. 

In  consequence  of  these  causes  the  decay 
of  many  old  customs  was  inevitable.  Never- 
theless they  have  not  all  died  yet,  and  it  is 
indeed  surprising  how  many  still  linger  on 
in  the  obscure  corners  of  our  native  land, 
where  railroads  and  modern  culture  have  not 
yet  penetrated.  We  will  endeavour  to  record 
the  customs  that  still  remain,  the  survivals 
of  old-world  rural  life.  We  will  visit  the 
quaint  and  quiet  streets  of  rural  towns  and 
villages ;  hear  the  rude  rhymes  of  the 
mummers  and  "  souling "  children,  and 
mark  their  fantastic  dress  and  strange  un- 
couth capers.  Handed  down  from  remote 
antiquity,  these  verses  have  been  passed  on 
from  generation  to  generation  and  preserve 
the  record  of  England's  history  writ  in  the 
memories  of  her  children.  Norse  legends, 
that  came  to  our  shores  with  the  fierce 
Vikings,  Saxon  superstitions,  Roman  customs, 
Norman  manners,  Pagan  beliefs,  pre-Reforma- 
tion  practices,  Tudor  triumphs,  great  events 
in  history,  the  memory  of  mighty  chiefs  and 
infamous  conspirators,  are  all  preserved  in 
our  existing  customs  which  time  has  spared. 
Popular  customs  contain  the  germ  of  history ; 
and  however  rude  and  uncouth  they  may 
be,  if  we  look  beneath  the  surface  we  find 
curious  and  interesting  stores  of  antiquarian 

Old  English   Customs 

lore  which  well  repay  the  labour  of  the  ex- 

Nor  are  curious  customs  confined  to  the 
country.  The  court  and  the  palace,  the 
law  courts,  the  Church,  Parliament,  mili- 
tary ceremonials,  all  present  interesting  fea- 
tures of  customs  and  observances  which  time 
has  consecrated  and  not  destroyed.  We  shall 
notice  many  strange  tenures  of  property ; 
curious  bequests  which  perpetuate  the  eccen- 
tricity of  the  benefactors ;  certain  manorial 
customs  which  have  been  termed  "jocular;" 
some  municipal  customs  which  certainly  have 
their  humorous  side;  and  all  the  odd  and 
fantastic  observances  which  may  be  witnessed 
in  the  streets  of  our  country  towns,  as  well 
as  in  the  homes  of  our  villagers. 

In  Pagan  institutions  we  must  ground 
many  old  customs  and  rites,  which,  travel- 
ling to  us  through  an  infinite  succession  of 
years,  have  been  sadly  distorted  and  disfigured 
in  their  progress.  Old  Paganism  died  hard, 
and  fought  long  and  stubbornly  in  its 
struggle  with  Christianity.  How  often  do 
we  find  the  incorporation  of  some  ancient 
cult  and  Pagan  custom  in  many  observances 
sanctioned  by  years  of  Christian  practice? 
The  hot-cross  buns  on  Good  Friday,  the 
bonfires  on  St.  John's  Eve — relics  of  old 
Baal  worship — the  hanging  of  mistletoe,  the 
bringing  in  of  the  Yule-log,  and  countless 
4  " 

Origin   of  Customs 

other  customs,  many  of  which  still  survive, 
are  the  results  of  a  compromise.  The  Chris- 
tian teachers  found  the  people  so  wedded  to 
their  old  rights  and  usages,  that  it  was  vain 
to  hope  for  the  complete  abandonment  of 
their  long-cherished  practices.  Hence  the 
old  Pagan  customs  were  shorn  of  their 
idolatry,  and  transferred  to  the  Christian 
festivals.  Nor  is  it  uncommon  to  find  sur- 
vivals of  old  forms  of  nature-worship,  of 
various  cults  of  hero  or  demigod,  of  pro- 
pitiatory offerings  to  the  spirits  of  woods 
and  streams,  just  as  we  find  the  old  Norse 
legends  of  Loki  and  Heimdal  and  Sigyn  on 
the  Saxon  crosses  at  Gosforth,  blended  with 
the  triumphs  of  Christianity  over  the  pros- 
trate Pagan  deities. 

Sometimes  local  customs  owe  their  origin 
to  the  popular  will  in  some  places,  and  have 
become  part  of  the  local  law.  In  some  cases 
we  find  that  a  particular  custom,  which  seems 
strange  and  remarkable,  is  but  a  variation  of 
some  well-ascertained  folk  custom  which  once 
extended  over  a  wide  area.  Other  popular 
customs  are  only  observed  in  one  particular 
place,  and  owe  their  origin  to  some  ascer- 
tained historical  event.1  They  are  frequently 
very  extraordinary,  and  cause  us  to  wonder 
how  the  wit  of  man  ever  invented  such 

1  Presidential  address  to  Folk-Lore  Society,  by  Mr.  J.  L. 

Old  English   Customs 

strange  modes  of  expressing  its  ideas  and 
feelings.  We  wonder,  too,  how  they  could 
have  been  preserved  so  long  amid  the  many 
changes  of  our  social  life.  We  have  festival 
customs,  ceremonial  customs,  and  sports  and 
games,  to  which  English  folk  have  ever  clung 
with  fond  affection.  The  Church  has  pre- 
served for  us  many  of  our  festival  customs ; 
ceremonial  customs  have  been  guarded  by 
legal  enactments,  and  become  connected  with 
all  the  chief  events  in  human  life.  Hence 
we  have  a  mass  of  customs  associated  with 
all  our  social  institutions  which  will  repay 
our  careful  examination  and  close  scrutiny. 

Existing  superstitions,  as  shown  forth  by 
examples  of  amazing  credulity,  will  find  no 
place  in  these  pages  ;  we  must  leave  to  others 
to  record  the  cases  of  modern  witchcraft, 
fortune-telling,  planet-ruling,  and  such  won- 
der-working powers,  startling  to  the  philo- 
sopher of  the  nineteenth  century,  who  be- 
lieved that  all  superstitions  had  been  killed 
by  modern  culture  and  enlightenment.  We 
seek  only  the  ancient  customs  which  survive 
in  town  or  hamlet,  in  church  or  court,  where, 
if  our  readers  will  bear  us  company,  we  can 
show  to  them  the  strange  performance  and 
wild,  rude  ceremony,  and  try  to  discover  the 
origin  and  meaning  of  that  which  we  behold. 
One  request  I  fain  would  utter  :  "  Villagers 
and  most  worthy  townsfolk  of  England,  we 

Origin   of  Customs 

know  that  old  customs  are  dying  fast,  that 
old  practices  are  falling  into  disuse  ;  let  them 
not  die,  I  would  beseech  you — at  least  not 
before  these  pages  are  written,  lest  our  good 
friends  whom  I  shall  venture  to  bring  with 
me  to  visit  you  should  go  away  disappointed, 
and  lest  hereafter  you  should  mourn  the  loss 
of  those  things  which  now  appear  to  your 
enlightened  minds  of  little  value  or  interest/1 
Most  of  the  local  time-honoured  customs  of 
Old  England  are  connected  with  the  Church's 
Calendar.  The  Church  always  was  the  centre 
of  the  life  of  the  old  village,  and  the  social 
amusements  and  holiday  observances  were 
associated  with  the  principal  feasts  and  fes- 
tivals of  the  Church.  Fairs  are  still  held  in 
most  places  on  the  festival  of  the  saint  to 
whom  the  parish  church  is  dedicated.  Christ- 
mas, Easter,  Ascension  Day,  Whitsuntide, 
still  bring  with  them  their  accustomed  modes 
of  popular  celebration.  We  propose  to  follow 
the  course  that  the  Calendar  lays  down  for 
us,  and  notice  all  the  remarkable  observ- 
ances which  have  long  ago  been  incorporated 
in  old  English  life ;  and  as  innocent  asso- 
ciations of  a  simpler,  perhaps  a  happier  time, 
it  would  be  a  pity  if  ever  they  were  allowed 
altogether  to  disappear. 


Christmas  customs — Mumming  — Folk-drama  in 
Devon,  Yorks,  Sfc. — "  Vessel  boxes "  -  Carol- 
singing — Furmety  at  Christmas — Mistletoe  and 
kissing-bush  —  Plum-pudding —  Christmas-tree — 
Bell  customs  at  Dewsbury,  Sfc. — Boars-head  at 
Oxford — Barring  out  in  Cumberland — Mumping 
and  goodening  on  St.  Thomas'  Day — Hooden- 
ing  — "  Picrous  day  " —  Burghead  custom  —  St. 
Stephen's  Day  and  stoning  the  wren  —  Yule 
Doos  and  local  cakes — Boxing  Day — Pantomimes 
— Christmas  cards. 

ALL  the  old  poets  sing  in  praise  of  the 
great  festival  of  the  Saviour's  birth,  which, 
according  to  Herrick,  "  sees  December  turned 
to  May,"  and  makes  uthe  chilling  winter's 
morn  smile  like  a  field  beset  with  corn." 
Sir  Walter  Scott  bewails  the  decline  of  the 
ancient  modes  of  celebrating  the  festival, 
and  says — 

"  England  was  merry  England  when 
Old  Christmas  brought  his  sports  again ; 
A  Christmas  gambol  oft  would  cheer 
A  poor  man's  heart  through  all  the  year." 

The  "  Lord  of  Misrule "  has  been  dead 

Christmas   Customs 

many  years  and  been  decently  buried,  though 
when  alive  he  did  not  always  merit  that 
epithet.  ThelfuJle^g_isjip_JjDnger  drawn 
in  state  intoThT^aron'shall,  but  we  have 
still  some  fragments  of_ancient  revels  pre- 
served  in__±he_rnummers^  curious  perform- 
ance. "  Mumming "  is  supposed  to  be  de- 
rived from  the  Danish  word  mumme^  or 
momme  in  Dutch,  and  signifies  to  disguise 
oneself  with  a  mask.  Dr.  Johnson  defines  a 
mwnmePas  one~who  performs  frolics  in  a 
personated  dress.  Modern  mummers  usually 
do  not  wear  masks,  but  they  dress  themselves 
up  in  a  strange  garb  resembling  sheep-skins, 
except  that  instead  of  wool  they  have 
coloured  paper  cut  into  ribbons.  The  head- 
gear is  elaborately  covered  with  the  same 
material.  The  dress  of  the  characters  is 
varied  to  suit  their  parts.  They  have  frills 
over  the  knees  in  a  fashion  somewhat  similar 
to  that  represented  in  some  pictures  of  the 
time  of  Charles  II.  Their  weapons  are 
wooden  swords,  but  "  King  George  "  usually 
sports  an  iron  one  fashioned  by  the  village 
blacksmith.  I  have  repeatedly  witnessed  the  , 
performance  of  Berkshire  mummers,  which  / 
is  probably  the  remnant  of  some  ancient 
"mystery"  play,  which  time  and  the  memo- 
ries of  old  Berkshire  folk  have  considerably 

There  was    a   celebrated    pageant    of  St. 

Old  English   Customs 

George  which  existed  in  the  fourteenth  and 
fifteenth  centuries,  and  took  a  foremost  place 
among  the  miracle-plays  of  Old  England. 
"  St.  George  and  the  Dragon "  is  a  well- 
known  legend,  to  which  the  mumming  play 
refers  in  the  words — 

"  I  am  St.  George,  that  noble  champion  bold, 
And  with   my  trusty  sword   I  won   ten   thousand 

pounds  in  gold ; 
'Twas  I  that  fought  the  fiery  dragon,  and  brought 

him  to  the  slaughter, 
And  by  those  means  I  won  the  King  of  Egypt's 


The  scaley  appearance  of  the  dresses  is  sup- 
posed to  allude  to  the  scales  of  the  dragon, 
but  this  interpretation  seems  fanciful.  Then 
we  have  a  crusading  element  introduced  in 
the  character  of  "  the  Turk,"  and  the  fierce 
fight  between  the  Christian  knight  and  "  the 
black  Morocco  dog."  Evidently  the  Christ- 
mas mumming  play,  and  the  other  forms  of 
folk-drama,  the  Plough  Monday  and  the 
Pace  egg  plays,  are  adapted  from  divers 
sources,  and  are  full  of  interest.1 

It  is  not  surprising  that  the  mumming 
play  has  many  variants ;  indeed,  it  varies  in 
different  parts  of  the  same  county,  not  only 
in  diction,  but  also  in  the  dramatis  per sonce. 

1  The  subject  of  the  English  Folk-Drama  has  been  carefully 
examined  by  Mr.  T.  F.  Ordish.  Cf.  Folk-Lore  Journal^  June 


Mumming  Plays 

The  words  are  doggerel  rhymes  well 
suited  to  the  idioms  and  pronunciation  of 
the  speakers.  The  plot  in  all  the  plays  is 
somewhat  similar.  The  first  person,  who 
acts  the  part  of  "  the  Greek  Chorus,"  is 
either  Beelzebub,  otherwise  represented  as 
Father  Christmas,  or  "  Molly,"  a  man  dressed 
up  as  an  old  woman,  who  introduces  the 
characters.  Then  enters  "  King  George,"  a 
mighty  hero,  who  boasts  of  his  prowess,  and 
challenges  all  brave  warriors  to  fight.  His 
challenge  is  accepted  by  another  mighty  hero, 
who  is  described  in  some  places  as  the 
Turkish  knight,  at  others  as  the  Duke  of 
Northumberland  or  a  French  officer.  In 
Devonshire  "  Lord  Nelson "  also  appears. 
A  vigorous  fight  takes  place  between  the 
two  champions,  in  which  "  King  George " 
is  usually  victorious,  and  his  opponent  falls 
grievously  wounded.  Sometimes  "  King 
George "  is  defeated,  but  he  fights  again 
and  vanquishes  his  rival.  Great  consterna- 
tion ensues,  and  a  doctor  is  hastily  sum- 

"  To  cure  this  man  lies  bleeding  on  the  ground." 

The  "  Doctor "  comes,  and  administers  a 
wonderful  pill,  which  revives  the  prostrate 
foeman.  The  jester,  "  Jack  Vinny,"  who 
prefers  to  be  called  "  Mr.  John  Vinny," 
extracts  a  tooth  from  the  wounded  man, 
1 1 

Old  English   Customs 

and  thus  cures  him.  They  dance  together. 
"  Happy  Jack,"  a  very  melancholy  person  in 
tattered  garments,  sometimes  bearing  "  his 
family,"  a  number  of  little  dolls,  on.  his 
back,  enters,  and  requests  some  contribu- 
tions, and  with  some  more  rhymes  repeated 
by  "  Beelzebub  "  the  play  ends,  and  the  com- 
pany sing  in  turn  some  modern  ditties. 

Such  is  the  usual  plot  of  a  mumming  play, 
subject  to  the  variations  which  custom  has 
introduced  in  different  parts  of  the  country. 

At  Stoke  Gabriel,  Devon,  the  characters 
are  St.  George,  Lord  Nelson,  a  Frenchman, 
a  Turk,  a  doctor  and  his  wife,  Beelzebub, 
and  Father  Christmas.  Mighty  duels  with 
swords  take  place,  and  the  Turk  and  French- 
man are  defeated.  At  last  Lord  Nelson  is 
wounded,  and  the  doctor  is  summoned  by 
the  characters  singing— 

"  Where  is  a  doctor  to  be  found 
To  cure  Lord  Nelson's  deep  and  deadly  wound." 

In  vain  the  doctor's  efforts.  Lord  Nelson 
dies,  and  is  carried  out ;  but  he  revives  be- 
hind the  scenes,  and  returns  unofficially  to 
swell  the  chorus. 

Between  the  duels  the  champions  march 
up  and  down  and  sing.  Of  St.  George  and 
Nelson  they  say— 

"  With  his  pockets  lined  with  red, 

And  a  heart  that's  ne'er  afraid." 


Mumming  Plays 

But  of  the  Frenchman  and  the  Turk  they 
say — 

"  With  his  pockets  lined  with  blue, 
And  a  heart  that's  never  true." 

The  doctor  and  his  wife  are  comic  charac- 
ters, with  masks  and  absurd  dresses ;  the 
wife  is  played  by  a  boy,  and  causes  great 
amusement  by  being  rather  indecorously 
rolled  about  on  the  floor  and  kicking. 
Beelzebub  is  grotesquely  dressed,  and  Father 
Christmas  wears  the  conventional  garb  of 
snowy  whiteness.  The  other  characters  wear 
high  pasteboard  head-dresses  decorated  with 
beads  and  ribbons,  and  the  rest  of  their  attire 
is  hung  with  ribbons,  and  made  as  gorgeous 
as  possible.  A  fez  adorns  the  head  of  the 
valiant  Turk. 

The  actual  "  Book  of  Words "  of  some 
of  these  plays  may  not  be  without  interest, 
and  some  examples  will  be  found  in  the 

In  Yorkshire  the  mummers  come  round 
and  perform  a  very  short  sword-dance,  but 
their  mumming  is  nothing  like  the  elaborate 
play  which  we  have  noticed  elsewhere. 

Near  Bradford,  bands  of  men  dressed  as 
nigger  minstrels,  in  very  fantastic  costumes, 
perambulate  the  streets  playing  fifes,  con- 
certinas, kettledrums,  and  other  instruments, 
and  are  known  by  the  plain-spoken  York- 

Old  English   Customs 

shire  term,  "  Bletherhead  Bands."  Some- 
times they  enter  the  houses  on  New  Year's 
Eve  with  besoms  in  order  to  "  sweep  out 
the  old  year."  In  Cornwall  the  mummers 
rejoice  in  the  no  less  uncomplimentary 
term  of  "  Geese-dancers ; "  and  in  Stafford- 
shire they  are  known  as  the  "  Guisers." 
"  Billy  Beelzebub,"  the  fool  of  the  play 
performed  yearly  at  Eccleshall,  Staffordshire, 
and  Newport,  Shropshire,  sings  a  song  be- 

"  I  am  a  jovial  tinker, 

And  have  been  all  my  life, 
So  now  I  think  it's  time 

To  seek  a  fresh  young  wife. 
And  it's  then  with  a  friend  will  a  merry  life  spend, 

And  I  never  did  yet  I  vow, 
With  my  rink-a-tink-tink,  and  a  sup  more  drink, 

I'll  make  your  old  kettles  cry  sound, 
Sound,  sound ! 

I'll  make  your  old  kettles  cry  sound." * 

The  characters  in  the  Guisers'  play  are  : 
Open-the-door,  Sing  Ghiles  (probably  inten- 
ded for  Sir  Guy  of  Warwick),  King  George, 
Noble  Soldier,  Little  Doctor,  Black  Prince 
of  Paradise,  Old  Beelzebub,  and  Little  Jack 
Devil-doubt.  The  first  song  of  the  com- 

1  A  full  account  of  the  Guisers'  play,  with  the  words,  is  given 
in  "Shropshire  Folk-Lore,"  p.  483,  and  in  Folk- Lore  Journal, 

Mumming  Plays 

pany  is  tuneful  and  effective,  and  the  words 
are — 

"  On  a  bleak  and  a  cold  frosty  morning, 
When  winter  inclement  they  were  scorning, 
Through  the  sparkling  frost  and  snow, 
And  a  skating  we  will  go. 

Will  you  follow  ?  will  you  follow  ? 

To  the  sound  of  the  merry,  merry  horn  ! 

See  how  the  skates  they  are  glancing, 
From  the  right  to  the  left  they  are  dancing, 
And  no  danger  shall  we  feel, 
With  our  weapons  made  of  steel. 

Will  you  follow  ?  &c. 

See  how  Victoria  reigns  o'er  us  ! 
She  has  health,  she  has  wealth,  to  adore  us  (!) 
In  the  merry,  merry  month  of  May, 
All  so  lively,  blithe,  and  gay. 
Will  you  follow?  &c." 

The  Sussex  mummers  are  called  "Tip- 
teerers,"  and  their  play,  which  resembles 
those  printed  in  the  Appendix,  has  appeared 
in  the  Folk- Lore  Journal}' 

In  Yorkshire,  before  Christmas,  girls,  and 
even  women,  come  round  bearing  "  vessel- 
boxes,"  a  corruption  evidently  of  "  wassail," 
further  changed  to  "  vessel-cups  "  in  the  East 
Riding,  and  sing  the  well-known  strains  of 
"  God  rest  you,  merry  gentlemen."  At  Leeds 

1  Cf.  Folk- Lore  Journal,  1884. 


Old  English   Customs 

they  sing  "The  five  joys  of  Mary,"  which 
begins  with  the  verse — 

"  The  first  good  joy  that  Mary  had, 

It  was  a  joy  of  one, 
To  see  her  own  son,  Jesus  Christ, 
To  suck  at  her  breast-bone." 

The  "  vessel "  is  a  box  containing  two 
dolls,  representing  the  Virgin  and  Child 
decorated  with  ribbons,  and  having  a  glass 
lid.  At  Aberford  it  is  called  a  Wesley-box, 
a  further  corruption  of  "  wassail,"  and  in  no 
way  alluding  to  the  father  of  a  distinguished 

Carol-singing  is  very  general  in  most  parts 
of  England,  but  few  old  carols  are  sung. 
"  Good  King  Wenceslas,"  and  other  modern 
carols  or  hymns,  have  supplanted  the  ancient 
traditional  ones.  The  singing  of  carols  is  a 
memorial  of  the  hymn  sung  by  the  angels  to 
the  shepherds  at  Bethlehem.  In  some  places 
the  children  carry  round  a  doll  laid  in  a  box, 
a  rude  representation  of  the  Holy  Child  in 
his  manger-bed. 

In  Worcestershire  the  carol-singers  always 
end  their  songs  with  the  following  : — 

"  I  wish  you  a  merry  Christmas  and  a  happy  New 


Pocket  full  of  money,  cellar  full  of  beer, 
Good  fat  pig  to  last  you  all  the  year." 

Christmas   Carols 

In  Cambridgeshire  (Duxford)  the  favour- 
ite carol  is  the  ancient  one — 

"  God  bless  you,  merry  gentlemen, 

Let  nothing  you  dismay, 
For  remember  Christ  our  Saviour 
Was  born  on  Christmas  Day." 

Cornish  folk  have  always  been  famous  for 
their  carols.  Even  the  knockers  and  other 
underground  spirits,  who  are  always  heard  to 
be  working  where  there  is  tin,  and  who  are 
said  to  be  the  ghosts  of  the  Jews  who  cruci- 
fied Jesus,  in  olden  times  held  mass  and  sang 
carols  on  Christmas  Eve.1  Some  of  the  tunes 
of  the  modern  Cornish  carol-singers  are 
very  old. 

Cornish  folk,  too,  are  famous  for  their 
pies ;  giblet-pie  is  the  recognised  Christmas 
dainty.  Then  they  have  squab-pie,  made 
of  mutton  and  apples,  onions  and  raisins ; 
mackerel-pie,  maggety-pie,  and  so  many  other 
pies  that  it  is  said,  "  The  devil  is  afraid  to 
come  into  Cornwall  for  fear  of  being  baked 
in  a  pie." 

In  Yorkshire,  furmety,  or  wheat-corn  boiled 
in  milk  with  spices,  is  eaten  on  Christmas^ 
Eve.      The  mistletoe  is  still   hung   in    our    1 
houses   at  Christmas-time,  but   few  connect 
this  instrument  of  mirth  with  the  wild  beliefs 
of  our  Norse  ancestors.     The  mistletoe  plays 

1  Folk-Lore  Journal,  1886. 

I7  B 

Old  English   Customs 

an  important  part  in  Scandinavian  mythology, 
and  the  custom  of  hanging  branches  of  this 
plant  is  common  to  all  Norse  nations.  The 
legend  is  that  Baldur  was  slain  by  a  mistletoe 
dart  at  the  instigation  of  Loki ;  and  in  repara- 
tion for  this  injury  the  plant  is  dedicated  to 
his  mother  Frigg,  so  long  as  it  does  not 
touch  the  earth,  which  is  Loki's  kingdom. 
Hence  the  mistletoe  is  hung  from  ceilings 
of  our  houses ;  and  the  kiss  given  under  it 
is  a  sign  that  it  is  no  longer  an  instrument 
of  mischief.  In  the  sixteenth  century  fetes 
were  held  in  France  in  honour  of  the  mistletoe. 
Some  contend  that  kissing  under  the  mistletoe 
is  a  dead  or  dying  custom ;  others  state  that 
all  kissing  should  be  abandoned  on  the  ground 
that  it  spreads  infection.  It  is  perhaps  diffi- 
cult to  arrive  at  any  safe  conclusion  with 
regard  to  the  prevalence  of  this  particular 
custom,  as  those  who  practise  it  are  not 
always  the  most  forward  in  proclaiming  their 
adherence  to  primitive  usages. 

The  old  "  kissing  bunch  "  is  still  hung  in 
some  of  the  most  old-fashioned  cottage  houses 
of  Derbyshire  and  Cornwall — two  wooden 
hoops,  one  passing  through  the  other,  decked 
with  evergreens,  in  the  centre  of  which  is 
hung  "  a  crown  "  of  rosy  apples  and  a  sprig 
of  mistletoe.  This  is  hung  from  the  central 
beam  of  the  living-room,  and  beneath  it  there 
is  much  kissing  and  romping.  Later  on,  the 

Christmas  Plum-Pudding 

carol-singers  stand  beneath  it  and  sing  the 
familiar  strains  of  "  God  rest  ye,  merry  gen- 
tlemen," and  "  While  shepherds  watched."  / 

Among  the  foods  peculiar  to  special  sea- 
sons, none  is  so  common  as  the  plum-pudding 
at  Christmas.  "  Time  immemorial "  is  the 
usual  period  assigned  for  the  introduction  of 
practices  about  which  knowledge  is  limited, 
and  the  date  of  the  invention  of  Christmas 
plum-puddings  has  been  relegated  to  tj*at 
somewhat  vague  and  indefinite  period.  'But 
the  plum-pudding  is  not  older  than  the  early 
years  of  the  eighteenth  century,  and  appears  . 
to  be  a  "  House  of  Hanover  "  or  "  Act  of 
Settlement "  dish.  The  pre-Revolution  or 
Stuart  preparation  of  plums  and  other  in- 
gredients was  a  porridge  or  pottage,  and  not 
a  pudding,  and  was  made  with  very  strong 
broth  of  shin  of  beef. 

The  searchers  of  the  symbolical  interpreta- 
tions contend  that  on  account  of  the  richness 
of  its  ingredients  the  plum-pudding  is  em- 
blematical of  the  offerings  of  the  Wise  Men. 
The  same  authorities  assert  that  mince-pies, 
on  account  of  their  shape,  are  symbolical  of 
the  manger-bed  of  the  Infant  Saviour.  I 
venture  to  think  that  such  interpretations 
should  be  received  with  some  hesitation. 

The  children  still  delight  in  their  Christmas-  '• 
tree,  which  also  belongs  to  no  "  immemorial 
time,"  the  first  Christmas  tree  being  introduced  - 

Old  English   Customs 

to  this  country  by  some  German  merchants 
who  lived  at  Manchester.  The  Queen  and 
Prince  Albert  also  celebrated  Christmas  with 
its  beautiful  old  German  custom ;  and  the 
Court  having  set  the  fashion,  Christmas-trees 
became  general,  and  have  brought  endless 
delights  to  each  succeeding  generation  of 

In  a  few  remote  districts  in  Cornwall  on 
Christmas  Eve  children  may  occasionally  be 
found  dancing  around  painted  lighted  candles 
placed  in  a  box  of  sand.1  Church  towers,  too, 
are  sometimes  illuminated.  Tennor  Church 
tower  was  made  brilliant  by  a  beacon-light 
a  few  years  ago,  and  we  hope  that  the  custom 
has  been  continued. 

A  very  interesting  custom  prevails  near 
Dewsbury.  On  Christmas  Eve,  as  soon  as  the 
last  stroke  of  twelve  o'clock  has  sounded,  the 
age  of  the  year — e.g.  1 895 — is  tolled  as  on  the 
death  of  any  person.  It  is  called  the  Old 
Lad's,  or  the  Devil's,  Passing  Bell.  A  carol 
has  been  written  on  this  subject : — 

"  Toll !  toll !  because  thus  ends  the  night, 

And  empire  old  and  vast, 
An  empire  of  unquestioned  right, 
O'er  present  and  o'er  past. 

1  Miss  Courtney,  "Cornish  Customs,  "Folk- Lore  Journal,  1886. 

Bell-Customs  at   Christmas 

Stretching  far  from  east  to  west, 
Ruling  over  every  breast, 

Each  nation,  tongue,  and  caste. 

Toll !  toll !  because  a  monarch  dies, 

Whose  tyrant  statutes  ran 
From  Polar  snows  to  Tropic  skies, 

From  Gravesend  to  Japan. 

Crowded  cities,  lonely  glens, 
Oceans,  mountains,  shores,  and  fens, 

All  owned  him  lord  of  man. 

Toll !  toll !  because  the  monarch  fought 

Right  fiercely  for  his  own, 
And  utmost  craft  and  valour  brought 

Before  he  was  o'erthrown. 

He  the  lord  and  man  the  slave ; 
His  the  kingdom  and  the  grave, 

And  all  its  dim  unknown. 

Joy  !  joy  !  because  a  babe  is  born, 

Who,  after  many  a  toil, 
The  scorner's  pride  shall  laugh  to  scorn 

And  work  the  foiler's  foil. 


God  as  Man  the  earth  has  trod, 

Therefore  man  shall  be  as  God, 

And  reap  the  spoiler's  spoil." 

In  many  parishes  the  bells  are  tolled  before 
midnight  on  the  3ist   of  December,  and  a 

Old  English   Customs 

joyous  peal  heralds  the  advent  of  the  New 
Year.  At  Kirton-in-Lindsay  this  custom  is 
as  old  as  1632,  the  following  entry  appearing 
in  the  Churchwardens'  account-books:  "  Item, 
to  the  ringer  of  new  yeare  day  morninge 

In  several  places,  notably  at  Woodchester, 
Gloucestershire ;  Norton,  near  Evesham ; 
Wells  and  Leigh,  Somerset,  a  muffled  peal 
is  rung  on  Holy  Innocents'  Day  in  com- 
memoration of  the  martyrdom  of  the  Babes 
of  Bethlehem.  At  Norton,  after  the  muffled 
peal  has  ceased,  the  bells  are  unmuffled,  and 
a  joyous  peal  is  rung  for  the  deliverance  of 
the  Infant  Jesus. 

-At  Queen's  College,  Oxford,  the  Boar's- 
head  feast  is  still  celebrated  with  accustomed 
ceremonial.  The  mythical  origin  of  the 
custom  is  the  story  of  a  student  of  the  College 
who  was  attacked  by  a  wild  boar  while  he 
was  diligently  studying  Aristotle  during  a 
walk  near  Shotover  Hill,  some  five  hundred 
years  ago.  His  book  was  his  only  means  of 
defence ;  so  he  thrust  the  volume  down  the 
animal's  throat,  exclaiming,  "  Graecum  est !  " 
The  boar  found  Greek  very  difficult  to  digest, 
and  died  on  the  spot ;  and  the  head  was 
brought  home  in  triumph  by  the  student. 
Ever  since  that  date,  for  five  hundred  years, 
a  boar's-head  has  graced  the  College  table  at 
Christmas.  The  custom  is  really  as  old  as 

Boar  s-Head  Feast 

heathendom,  and  the  entry  of  the  boarVhead, 
decked  with  laurel  and  rosemary,  recalls  the 
sacrifice  of  the  boar  to  Frigg  at  the  midwinter 
feast  of  old  Paganism. 

Every  Christmas  Day  this  "  right  merrie 
jouste  of  ye  olden  tyme"  is  enacted  at 
Queen's  College.  A  large  boar's  -  head, 
weighing  between  sixty  and  seventy  pounds, 
surmounted  by  a  crown,  wreathed  with 
gilded  sprays  of  laurel  and  bay,  mistletoe 
and  rosemary,  with  small  banners  surround- 
ing, is  brought  into  the  hall  by  three 
bearers,  whose  entry  is  announced  by  trum- 
pet. A  procession  of  the  Provost  and 
Fellows  precedes  the  entry  of  the  boarV 
head.  The  bearers  are  accompanied  by  the 
precentor,  who  chants  an  old  English  carol, 
the  Latin  refrain  being  joined  in  by  the 
company.  The  following  are  the  words  of 
this  ancient  ditty  :— 

"  Caput  apri  defero, 

Reddens  laudes  Domino. 
The  boar's-head  in  hand  bring  I, 
Bedecked  with  bays  and  rosemary ; 
And  I  pray  you,  masters,  be  merry, 

Qui  estis  in  convivio. 

The  boar's-head,  I  understand, 
Is  the  bravest  dish  in  all  the  land, 
When  thus  bedecked  with  gay  garland  : 
Let  us  servire  cantico. 


Old  English   Customs 

Our  steward  hath  provided  this, 
In  honour  of  the  King  of  Bliss, 
Which  on  this  day  to  be  served  is 
In  Reginensi  Atrio. 

Chorus — Caput  apri  defero, 

Reddens  laudes  Domino." 

There  are  four  versions  of  this  ancient  carol. 
The  earliest  is  called  "  The  Original  Carole," 
taken  from  "  Christmess  Carolles,  newly  em- 
prynted  at  London  in  ye  flete  strete,  at  ye 
sygne  of  ye  sonne,  by  Wynkyn  de  Worde. 
The  yere  of  our  Lorde  m.d.  xxi."  The  second 
is  the  one  already  quoted.  The  third  is  very 
rare,  and  is  taken  from  the  Balliol  MSS.,  No. 
354 ;  and  the  fourth  is  from  the  Porkington 
MSS.,  a  fifteenth -century  collection.  The 
origin  of  this  strange  custom  certainly  can 
be  traced  to  the  old  Scandinavian  Yule  fes- 
tival, when  an  offering  of  a  boar's-head  was 
always  made.  However,  in  support  of  the 
mythical  story  of  the  student  and  the  boar, 
there  is  preserved  in  the  College  a  picture  of 
a  saint  having  a  boar's-head  transfixed  on  a 
spear,  with  a  mystic  inscription,  "  Cop  cot ;  " 
and  in  Horspeth  Church,  near  which  the 
contest  is  supposed  to  have  taken  place,  there 
is  a  window  containing  a  representation  of 
the  incident. 

In  spite  of  the  schoolmaster  and  the  School 
Board,  the  old  custom  of  barring  out  during 

Mumping  on  St.  Thomas'  Day 

the  Christmas  holidays  still  prevails  in  Cum- 
berland. A  few  years  ago  the  Dalston  School 
Board  received  a  letter  from  the  master,  re- 
questing that  the  school  might  close  on  the 
Thursday  before  Christmas  instead  of  the 
Friday,  on  the  ground  that  "  the  old  barba- 
rous custom  of  barring  out  "  the  schoolmaster 
might  no  longer  be  resorted  to.  If  the 
school  were  opened  on  the  Friday,  the  mas- 
ter was  of  opinion  that  the  children  might 
possibly  be  persuaded  by  outsiders  to  make 
an  attempt  to  bar  him  out,  and  would  then 
have  to  suffer  a  large  amount  of  severe  cas- 
tigation.  The  school  was  accordingly  closed 
on  the  Thursday,  much  to  the  regret  of  the 
chairman  and  others,  who  would  like  to 
have  witnessed  the  repetition  of  so  ancient 
a  custom.  (Notes  and  Queries.) 

The  festivals  associated  with  Christmas 
have  some  old  customs.  On  St.  Thomas' 
Day  (December  21),  the  custom  of  mumping 
is  still  practised  in  many  places,  notably  at 
Hornsea,  East  Yorks,  where  the  old  women 
perambulate  the  town  and  are  accustomed  to 
receive  small  gratuities.  The  word  mumping 
comes  to  us  from  the  Dutch,  and  signifies  to 
mumble  or  mutter.  The  beggars  on  this 
occasion  are  usually  old  people,  and  toothless 
age  mumbles  both  food  and  words ;  hence 
the  beggars  are  called  mumpers,  and  they  are 
said  "  to  go  a  mumping."  In  many  parts  of 

Old  English   Customs 

the  country  it  is  called  "  going  a-gooding ;  " 
in  Cheshire,  "  going  a-Thomasing ; "  and  in 
some  places  in  Staffordshire  the  money  col- 
lected is  given  to  the  vicar  and  church- 
wardens, who  distribute  it  to  the  poor  aged 
folk  on  the  Sunday  after  St.  Thomas'  Day. 
The  following  rhyme  for  this  day  is  taken 
from  the  Bilston  Mercury,  Staffordshire  :— 

"  Well  a  day,  well  a  day, 
St.  Thomas  goes  too  soon  away  ; 
Then  your  gooding  we  do  pray, 
For  the  good  time  will  not  stay. 
St.  Thomas  Grey,  St.  Thomas  Grey, 
The  longest  night  and  the  shortest  day, 
Please  to  remember  St.  Thomas  Day." 

At  Stoulton,  Worcester,  and  at  Pole- 
brooke,  Oundle,  the  custom  of  going  "  good- 
ing"  or  "Tommying"  is  kept  up,  and  also 
at  Newington-by-Sittingbourne,  Kent,  a  beau- 
tiful village,  where,  amid  a  setting  of  orchard 
and  hop-land,  old-world  manners  may  well 
be  pleased  to  dwell.  It  is  there  known  as 
goodenin'.  The  old  widows  assemble  on  St. 
Thomas'  Day  and  proceed  to  the  houses  of 
the  gentlemen  and  farmers,  who  are  requested 
to  "  please  remember  the  goodenin'."  Gifts 
of  money  are  bestowed  upon  the  goodeners, 
who  repair  to  the  White  Hart  Inn  and  divide 
the  spoil.  The  derivation  of  the  word  is 
a  subject  for  conjecture.  A  correspondent 


suggests  that  it  is  derived  from  "  goody," 
the  name  given  to  old  widows  ;  while  another 
writer  connects  goodening  or  hoodening  with 
Woden  or  Odin,  the  presiding  deity  of  the 
ancient  Yuletide  rites.1  The  custom  also 
prevails  in  Hampshire,2  and  until  recently 
at  Great  Gransden,  Huntingdon,  where  the 
vicar  now  receives  the  alms  and  gives  the  old 
women  a  tea. 

Hoodening  is  a  kind  of  old  horse-head 
mumming  once  prevalent  in  Kent,  and  still 
exists  in  some  places.  Hoodening  is  ob- 
served still  at  Walmer;  the  young  men  per-[ 
ambulate  the  village,  bearing  a  Hoodening 
Horse,  a  rudely  cut  wooden  figure  of  a 
horse's-head  with  movable  mouth,  having 
rows  of  hob-nails  for  teeth,  which  opens 
and  shuts  by  means  of  a  string  and  closes 
with  a  loud  sharp  snap.  It  is  furnished 
with  a  flowing  mane,  and  is  worn  on  the 
head  of  a  ploughman,  who  is  called  the 
Hoodener.  It  is  suggested  that  the  wooden 
(pronounced  'ooden  or  hooden)  horse's-head 
gave  the  name  to  hoodening  or  goodening. 
We  must  leave  the  solution  of  this  difficult 
derivation  to  the  discretion  and  judgment  of 
our  learned  readers.3  It  is  evidently  con- 

1  "  Kentish  Odds  and  Ends,"  in  Kentish  Express,  by  A.  Moore. 

2  "  Old  Woman's  Outlook,"  Miss  Young,  p.  280. 

3  Hone  suggests  that  it  is  an  ancient  relic  of  a  festival  ordained 
to  commemorate  our  Saxon  ancestors'  landing  in  the  Isle  of 


Old  English   Customs 

nected  with  the  old  Pagan  feast  held  on  the 
Kalends  of  January  in  the  seventh  century, 
when  men  used  to  clothe  themselves  with  the 
skins  of  cattle  and  carry  heads  of  animals. 
A  similar  custom  prevails  at  Northwich, 
Cheshire,  on  All  Souls'  Day,  when  a  gang  of 
boys  and  girls  come  round  at  night,  reciting 
verses  and  singing  snatches  of  songs,  accom- 
panied by  a  man  dressed  as  a  horse.  The 
monster  prances  and  clatters  with  its  hoof 
when  a  modest  coin  is  presented  to  it. 
Possibly  hoodening  is  a  relic  of  the  old 
hobby-horse  dance  which  once  formed  one  of 
the  leading  festivities  in  the  Squire's  hall  at 
Christmas.  At  any  rate,  hoodening  is  a  very 
ancient  custom,  which  still  lingers  amongst 
us,  and  attracts  the  attention  of  the  curious 
in  Old  English  manners. 

At  Kingscote,  Gloucestershire,  they  have  a 
peculiar  kind  of  Bull  Hoodening.  Every 
Christmas,  five  or  six  villagers  go  from  house 
to  house  with  a  wassail-bowl,  and  one  per- 
sonates a  bull  by  crouching  on  the  ground, 
his  body  hid  by  sacking,  and  his  head  by  a 
real  bull's  face,  hair,  and  horns  complete. 
He  is  commonly  called  "  the  Broad,"  and 
each  verse  of  the  Wassailing-Bowl  song  is 
sung,  beginning  : — 

"  Here's  a  health  to  Old  Broad  and  to  his  right  eye." 

The    present    Rector    of    Kingscote    has 

Picrous  Day 

known  the  custom  for  sixty  years,  but  has 
never  heard  of  its  existence  in  any  other 
place,  and  no  hint  of  its  origin  has  been  ob- 
tained. It  is  probably  a  survival  of  the  old 
Pagan  feast  mentioned  above. 

The  following  rhyme  is  uttered  at  Har- 
vington,  Worcestershire : — 

"  Wissal,  wassail,  through  the  town, 
If  you've  got  any  apples  throw  them  down  ; 
Up  with  the  stocking  and  down  with  the  shoe, 
If  you've  got  no  apples,  money  will  do  ; 
The  jug  is  white,  and  the  ale  is  brown, 
This  is  the  best  house  in  the  town." 

In  some  counties  corn  used  for  furmety  is 
given  away,  and  this  is  called  in  Lincolnshire 
u  mumping  wheat."  At  Saxton,  near  Tad- 
caster,  Aberford,  Sherburn,  and  other  small 
towns  in  Yorkshire,  the  children  go  round  to 
the  farmhouses  begging  for  furmety,  singing 
the  old  doggrel  verses. 

The  second  Thursday  before  Christmas  in 
East  Cornwall  is  observed  by  the  miners  as 
a  holiday  in  honour  of  one  of  the  reputed 
discoverers  of  tin.  It  is  known  as  Picrous 
Day,  but  who  this  saint  or  early  metal- 
worker was,  history  relateth  not.  There  is 
also  a  White  Thursday  in  Cornwall,  in  no 
way  related  to  the  Dominica  in  albis.  It 
occurs  on  the  last  Thursday  before  Christmas, 
and  tradition  records  that  on  this  day  white 

Old  English   Customs 

tin  (i.e.)  smelted  tin)  was  first  made  in 
Cornwall ;  hence  its  name,  Chewidder  or 
White  Thursday.  (Notes  and  Queries.} 

Fishermen  are  somewhat  superstitious  folk, 
and  love  to  preserve  their  ancient  customs. 
The  seamen  of  Burghead,  Elgin,  on  Yule 
night  meet  at  the  west  end  of  the  town, 
carrying  an  old  barrel,  which  they  proceed  to 
saw  in  two.  The  lower  half  is  then  nailed  to 
a  long  spoke  of  firewood,  which  serves  as  a 
handle.  The  half  barrel  is  then  filled  with 
dry  wood  saturated  with  tar,  and  built  up 
like  a  pyramid,  leaving  a  hollow  to  receive  a 
burning  peat.  Should  the  bearer  stumble 
or  fall,  the  consequences  would  be  unlucky 
to  the  town  and  to  himself.  The  Claire  is 
thrown  down  the  western  side  of  the  hill,  and 
a  scramble  ensues  for  the  burning  brands, 
which  bring  good  luck,  and  are  carried  home 
and  carefully  preserved  till  the  following  year 
as  a  safeguard  against  all  manner  of  ills.  The 
Claire  used  to  be  carried  round  all  the  ships 
in  the  harbour,  but  this  part  of  the  custom 
has  now  been  discontinued.  (Folk-Lore.) 

Before  the  days  of  the  Society  for  the 
Prevention  of  Cruelty  to  Animals,  boys 
were  accustomed  in  many  places,  notably 
Essex,  Ireland,  and  the  Isle  of  Man,  to 
kill  wrens,  and  carry  them  about  on  furze 
bushes  from  house  to  house,  repeating  the 


Stoning   the   Wren 

"  The  wren,  the  wren,  the  king  of  the  birds, 
St.  Stephen's  Day  was  killed  in  the  furze ; 
Although  he  be  little  his  family's  great, 
And  so,  good  people,  give  us  a  treat." 

The  origin  of  the  cruel  custom  is  curious. 
There  is  a  Norse  legend  of  a  beautiful  siren  who 
bewitched  men  and  lured  them  into  the  sea, 
after  the  fashion  of  the  Lurlie  of  Rhineland 
fame.  A  charm  was  obtained  to  counteract 
her  evil  influence  and  capture  the  siren,  who 
contrived  to  escape  by  assuming  the  form  of 
a  wren.  Once  every  year,  presumably  on  St. 
Stephen's  Day,  she  was  compelled  by  a  power- 
ful spell  to  appear  in  the  guise  of  the  bird, 
and  ultimately  to  be  slaughtered  by  mortal 
hand.  Hence  poor  wrens  are  killed  in  the 
hope  of  effecting  the  destruction  of  the 
beautiful  siren.  The  feathers  of  the  birds 
are  plucked  and  preserved  as  a  prevention 
from  death  by  shipwreck,  and  formerly  its 
body  was  placed  in  a  bier,  and  buried  with 
much  solemnity  in  a  grave  in  the  church- 
yard, while  dirges  were  sung  over  its  last 
resting-place.  Few  wrens  are  stoned  now, 
and  I  imagined  that  the  custom  had  happily 
died  out.  However,  in  the  Isle  of  Man  I 
find  that  it  still  lingers,  and  the  "  hunting 
of  the  wren  "  is  solemnised  to  a  large  extent. 
Numerous  "  bushes "  are  borne  about  by 
groups  of  lads  chanting  a  monotonous  ditty. 
They  adorn  the  "  bushes  "  with  much  taste, 


Old  English   Customs 

but  a  large  number  are  usually  minus  the 
wren  itself.  The  bush  consists  of  two  hoops 
crossed,  with  a  wren  suspended  by  the  legs 
in  the  centre.  The  usual  rhyme  is— 

"  We  hunted  the  wren  for  Robin  the  Bobbin ; 
We  hunted  the  wren  for  Jack  of  the  Can ; 
We  hunted  the  wren  for  Robin  the  Bobbin ; 
We  hunted  the  wren  for  every  one." 

The  boys  collect  money,  and  present  a  feather 
of  the  bird  to  each  donor,  which  is  supposed 
to  avert  the  danger  of  shipwreck.  Afterwards 
the  bird  is  buried  on  the  seashore  (formerly 
in  the  churchyard)  with  much  solemnity, 
and  dirges  in  Manx  language  are  sung  over 
it.  (Folk-Lore  and  Notes  and  Queries.} 

A  wren-box  was  sold  at  Christie's  a  few 
years  ago,  which  used  to  be  carried  in  pro- 
cession in  some  parts  of  Wales  on  St. 
Stephen's  Day.  It  is  about  seven  inches 
square,  and  has  a  glass  window  at  one  end. 
Into  this  box  a  wren  was  placed,  and  it  was 
hoisted  on  two  long  poles,  and  carried  round 
the  town  by  four  strong  men,  who  affected 
to  find  the  burden  heavy.  Stopping  at  in- 
tervals, they  sang— 

"  '  O  where  are  you  going  ? '  says  milder  to  melder  ; 
'O  where  are  you  going?'  says  the  younger  to  the  elder. 
'  O  I  cannot  tell,'  says  Festel  to  Fose ; 
'  We're  going  to  the  woods/  said  John  the  Red  Nose. 
We're  going,  &c. 


Stoning  the   Wren 

'  O  what  will  you  do  there  ? '  says  milder  to  melder ; 
'  O  what  will  you  do  there  ? '  says  the  younger  to 

the  elder. 

'  O  I  do  not  know,'  says  Festel  to  Fose ; 
1  To  shoot  the  cutty  wren,'  says  John  the  Red  Nose. 
To  shoot,  &c." 

And  so  on  for  eight  more  verses,  taking  the 
form  of  question  and  answer,  as  in  the 
ballad  of  "  Cock  Robin,"  and  describing  the 
method  of  shooting  the  wren,  cutting  it  up, 
and  finally  boiling  it. 

Fanciful  interpreters  have  seen  in  the 
stoning  of  the  wren  a  connection  with  the 
stoning  of  St.  Stephen,  whose  martyrdom 
occurred  on  the  day  of  the  observance  of 
this  barbarous  custom.  Another  legend  is 
that  one  of  St.  Stephen's  guards  was  awak- 
ened by  a  bird  just  as  his  prisoner  was  about 
to  escape.  In  Worcestershire  St.  Stephen's 
Day  is  a  great  occasion  for  pigeon-shooting. 
Possibly  this  may  have  arisen  from  the  old- 
world  custom  of  hunting  the  wren. 

In  the  North  of  England  children  are  still 
regaled  with  Yule  "doos,"  which  are  flat 
cakes,  from  six  to  twelve  inches  long,  roughly 
cut  into  the  shape  of  a  human  figure,  raisins 
being  inserted  for  the  eyes  and  nose.  The 
name  is  probably  derived  from  dough,  and 
the  shape  was  doubtless  originally  intended 
to  represent  the  Infant  Saviour  with  the 
Virgin  Mary.  In  Cornwall,  too,  they  have 
33  c 

Old  English   Customs 

a  peculiar  cake,  a  small  portion  of  the  dough 
in  the  centre  of  each  top  being  pulled  up ; 
and  this  small  headpiece  to  the  cake  is  called 
"The  Christmas."  The  cakes  are  given 
away  to  poor  people,  and  each  member  of 
the  family  has  his  own  special  cake.  The 
whole  subject  of  local  cakes,  feasten  and 
customary,  is  full  of  interest ;  and  at  a 
recent  Folk-lore  Congress,  Mrs.  Gomme 
exhibited  a  large  collection  gathered  from 
different  parts  of  Great  Britain.  There  are 
cakes  peculiar  to  certain  towns  and  villages ; 
cakes  commemorative  of  special  events ;  cakes 
connected  with  harvest,  sowing,  births,  mar- 
riages, funerals,  and  the  great  Church  fes- 
tivals, and  others.  It  is  surprising  to  learn 
the  amazing  number  of  peculiar  forms 
which  local  custom  has  sanctioned  and 
ordained,  and  the  old  Yule  "doos"  were 
not  the  least  interesting  of  this  remarkable 

Children  of  both  "larger  and  smaller 
growth  "  still  look  forward  to  the  Christmas 
Pantomime,  which,  in  spite  of  modern  de- 
velopments, maintains  its  popularity,  espe- 
cially in  the  provinces.  Pantomimes  have 
entirely  changed  their  character  since  they 
were  first  introduced  into  this  country  by 
a  dancing  -  master  of  Shrewsbury,  named 
Weaver,  in  1702.  The  humours  of  Grimaldi 
and  his  successors,  the  merry  tricks  of  the 

Boxing  Day 

clown  and  the  diversions  of  the  harlequinade, 
have  given  place  to  grand  spectacular  dis- 
plays and  scenic  effects  which  would  certainly 
have  astonished  our  forefathers.  However, 
the  Pantomime  will  probably  long  continue 
to  hold  its  place  on  the  list  of  existing  cus- 
toms of  the  English  people. 

The  day  after  Christmas  is  still  known  as 
"  Boxing  Day,"  and  is  so  called  from  the 
"  Christmas  Boxes "  which  used  to  be  in 
circulation  at  that  time.  In  the  British 
Museum  are  specimens  of  "thrift  -boxes " 
—  small  and  wide  bottles  with  imitation 
stoppers,  from  three  to  four  inches  in  height, 
of  thin  clay,  the  upper  part  covered  with 
a  green  glaze.  On  one  side  is  a  slit  for  the 
introduction  of  money,  and  as  the  small 
presents  were  collected  at  Christmas  in  these 
money-pots,  they  were  called  Christmas 
boxes.  Thus  these  boxes  gave  the  name  to 
the  present  itself  and  to  the  day  when  these 
gifts  were  commonly  made.  Christmas  gift- 
books  are  extensively  published  now.  The 
first  announcement  of  such  a  book  appeared 
in  the  General  Advertiser  of  January  9, 
1750,  and  was  published  by  Mr.  J.  New- 
berry  at  the  "  Bible  and  Sun  "  in  St.  Paul's 
Churchyard.  It  was  called  "  Nurse  True- 
love's  Christmas  Box  ;  or,  The  Golden  Play- 
thing for  Little  Children,  by  which  they 
may  learn  the  letters  as  soon  as  they  can 


Old  English   Customs 

speak,  and   know  how  to   behave   so   as  to 
make  everybody  love  them." 

The  sending  of  Christmas-cards  is  a  very 
popular  custom,  which  shows  no  signs  of 
decay.  The  custom  is  of  very  recent  growth, 
the  first  English  Christmas-card  being  issued 
from  Summerly's  Home  Treasury  Office,  12 
Old  Bond  Street,  in  j_84fL-  The  design  was 
drawn  by  J.  C.  Horsley,  R.A.,  at  the  sug- 
gestion of  Sir  Henry  Cole,  K.C.B.,  repre- 
senting a  merry  family  party  gathered  round 
a  table  quaffing  generous  draughts  of  wine. 
The  sale  of  a  thousand  copies  of  this  card 
was  then  considered  a  large  circulation.  Since 
those  days  the  custom  has  become  universal. 
If  good  wishes  could  bring  us  happiness, 
our  cups  of  joy  would  indeed  be  full, 
and  a  "  Merry  Christmas  and  a  Happy  New 
Year"  would  fall  to  the  lot  of  all,  except  to 
the  postmen. 



New  Years  Day  and  Jirst-footing  —  Banjfshire 
custom  —  Wassail  bowls  —  New  Years  gifts  and 
good  wishes  —  Midnight  services  —  Queen's  Col- 
lege, Oxford  —  Yorks  custom  —  Local  rhymes  and 
wassailers  —  Quaaltagh  in  Isle  of  Man  —  Twelfth 
Night  or  Epiphany  —  Plough  Monday  —  Wassail- 
ing orchards  —  Court  custom  —  Haxey  Hood  — 
Watching  animals  —  St.  Paul's  Day  —  Valentine's 
Day  —  Islip  valentine  —  Customs  in  Berks  and 
Essex  —  Hurling  at  St.  Ives. 

ONE  of  the  earliest  customs  that  I  can 
recollect  is  that  of  first-footing  on  New 
Year's  Eve,  which  is  commonly  practised  in 
the  North  of  England  and  in  Scotland.  The 
first  person  who  enters  the  house  after  mid- 
night is  called  the  first-foot,  and  is  esteemed 
as  a  herald  of  good  fortune.  In  Lancashire 
this  important  person  must  be  a  dark-com- 
plexioned man,  otherwise  superstitious  folk 
believe  that  ill-luck  will  befall  the  house- 
hold. In  some  other  parts  of  England  a 
light-complexioned  man  is  considered  a  more 
favourable  harbinger  of  good  fortune. 

Indeed,  there  seems  to  be  a  great  variety 
of  opinion  with  regard  to  the  complexion 

Old  English   Customs 

of  a  "first-foot."  In  Northumberland  a 
light-haired  and  flat-footed  man  is  pre- 
ferred ;  in  Fife,  red  hair  and  a  flat  foot  are  to 
be  avoided.  Sometimes  a  man  is  preferred, 
sometimes  a  boy;  occasionally  women  are 
chosen ;  at  other  places  they  are  strongly 
objected  to.  Quot  homines  tot  sententice  is 
certainly  true  with  regard  to  the  appearance 
and  sex  of  the  lucky  "  first-foot."  The 
person  who  performs  this  duty  in  Durham  is 
bound  by  custom  to  bring  in  a  piece  of  coa], 
a  piece  of  iron,  and  a  bottle  of  whisky. 
To  each  man  of  the  company  he  gives  a 
glass,  and  to  each  woman  a  kiss. 

On  these  occasions  sweetened  ale  or  egg- 
flip  are  the  prescribed  beverages  for  the 
drinking  of  healths  when  the  new  year  is 
"  brought  in."  In  Banffshire  the  villagers 
covered  up  the  peat  fire  with  the  ashes  and 
smoothed  them  down.  These  were  examined 
in  the  morning,  and  if  the  trace  of  any  re- 
semblance to  the  print  of  a  foot  with  the 
toes  pointing  to  the  door  could  be  detected, 
it  was  believed  that  one  of  the  family  would 
die  or  leave  home  during  the  year. 

In  "  Auld  Reekie  "  the  custom  of  first- 
footing  is  observed  with  much  enthusiasm. 
Crowds  assemble,  as  midnight  approaches, 
nigh  the  old  Tron  Church,  and  usher  in  the 
new  year  with  much  shouting  and  hand- 
shaking. Much  might  be  written  concerning 


New   Year   Customs 

the  New  Year  customs  of  Scotland,  but  we 
are  concerned  chiefly  in  the  consideration  of 
English  customs,  and  must  not  stray  across 
the  Border. 

In  ancient  days  the  wassail  bowl  of  spiced 
ale  was  carried  round  from  house  to  house 
by  the  village  maidens,  who  sang  songs  and 
wished  every  one  "  a  happy  new  year."  In 
fact,  wassail  was  heard  all  over  the  land,  from 
cot  to  keep,  from  mansion  to  monastery, 
where  the  poculum  caritatis  was  passed 
round  with  accustomed  rejoicings.  The 
loving  cup  at  our  civic  feasts,  the  grace 
cup  at  our  college  "gaudies,"  are  the  sole 
relics  of  this  ancient  observance. 

The  presentation  of  New  Year's  and 
Christmas  cards,  and  of  other  more  costly 
gifts  to  friends  at  this  season,  is  universally 
practised,  and  this  practice  is  as  old  as  the 
time  of  the  Romans.  Hone  tells  us  of 
a  remarkable  lawsuit  arising  out  of  this 
custom.  A  poet  was  commissioned  by  a 
Roman  pastry-cook  to  write  some  mottoes 
for  the  New  Year's  Day  bonbons,  and 
agreed  to  supply  five  hundred  couplets  for 
six  livres.  Although  the  poet's  eye  with 
fine  frenzy  rolled,  and  the  couplets  were 
completed  in  due  course,  he  did  not  re- 
ceive the  stipulated  reward  for  his  labours. 
Hence  the  lawsuit,  and  we  trust  the  poet 
obtained  due  compensation.  Crackers  were 

Old  English   Customs 

not  then  invented,  but  we  still  have  our 
mottoes,  which  can  thus  claim  a  very  re- 
spectable antiquity. 

The  Church  endeavoured  to  overthrow 
many  old  customs  on  account  of  the  super- 
stitions connected  with  them ;  and  New 
Year's  gifts  were  objected  to  because  they 
were  originally  offered  as  omens  of  success 
for  the  coming  year.  Even  superstition  was 
supposed  to  lurk  in  the  benevolent  greeting, 
"  A  happy  new  year  to  you."  An  old  Puri- 
tan as  late  as  A.D.  1750,  in  the  poem  called 
"  The  Popish  Kingdom,"  thus  describes  the 
sins  of  his  countrymen  : — 

"The  next  to  this  is  New  Year's  Day,  whereon  to 

every  friend 
They  costly  presents  in  do  bring,  and  newe  yeare's 

gifts  do  sende ; 
These  gifts  the  husband  gives  his  wife,  and  father 

eke  the  childe, 
And   master   on   his   men   bestowes  the  like  with 

favour  milde ; 
And  good  beginning  of  the  yeare  they  wishe  and 

wishe  again, 
According  to  the  ancient  guise  of  heathen  people 


We  need  not  record  how  universal  was  the 
practice ;  how  Roman  citizens  gave  strencz 
to  each  other ;  how  kings  and  emperors 
took  toll  of  their  subjects ;  how  Henry  VI. 
received  his  New  Year's  gifts  of  food  and 

New   Year   Customs 

jewels,  geese,  turkeys,  hens,  and  sweetmeats ; 
how  Queen  Elizabeth  was  gratified  by  re- 
ceiving a  vast  store  of  offerings,  including 
caskets  studded  with  gems,  necklaces,  brace- 
lets, gowns,  mantles,  smocks,  petticoats, 
mirrors,  fans,  and  a  pair  of  black  silk  stock- 
ings, knitted  by  Mrs.  Montague  for  her  royal 
mistress,  who  never  afterwards  wore  cloth 
hose.  New  Year's  Day  is  still  happily  ushered 
in  by  the  giving  of  presents,  and  of  cards  con- 
veying to  us  the  good  wishes  of  our  friends ; 
and  we  trust  that  this  practice  may  long 

A  midnight  service  is  now  the  most  usual 
manner  of  ushering  in  the  new  year.  At 
Basingstoke  it  is  customary  to  sing  the  "  Old 
Hundredth"  on  the  church  tower  at  mid- 
night, at  the  close  of  the  service.  We  be- 
lieve that  these  Watch  Night  Services  were 
first  introduced  by  the  Wesleyan  Methodists, 
whose  example  Churchmen  have  wisely  copied, 
with  much  benefit  to  their  congregations. 

In  former  days  it  used  to  be  the  fashion  for 
people  to  exercise  their  wit  by  making  a  rebus 
out  of  their  name,  and  they  loved  to  record 
at  once  their  family  and  their  humour  by 
handing  down  to  posterity  the  witticism 
which  they  had  devised.  Thus  at  St.  Bartho- 
lomew's Church,  Smithfield,  we  see  a  bar  stuck 
in  a  barrel,  which  serves  to  immortalise  the 
family  of  Barton.  The  founder  of  Queen's 

Old  English   Customs 

College,  Oxford,  Robert  de  Eglesfield, 
sought  to  preserve  the  memory  of  his  good 
deeds  by  a  similar  device,  and  directed  that 
on  New  Year's  Day  a  needle  and  thread,  a 
rebus  on  his  name,  Aiguille  et  fil  (Egles- 
feld),  should  be  given  to  each  member  of 
the  College.  This  custom  is  performed 
every  year  by  the  bursar  of  the  College,  who, 
according  to  ancient  usage,  adds  the  whole- 
some moral,  "Take  this,  and  be  thrifty." 
This  sage  counsel  is  better  than  the  founder's 
wit,  which  can  scarcely  be  said  to  be  as  sharp 
as  his  needle's  point.  As  the  students  are 
away  from  Oxford  on  New  Year's  Day,  the 
Fellows  and  their  guests  receive  the  time- 
honoured  gift. 

At  Skipsea,  in  Holderness,  Yorkshire,  the 
young  men  gather  together  at  twelve  o'clock 
on  New  Year's  Eve,  and,  after  blackening 
their  faces  and  otherwise  disguising  them- 
selves, they  pass  through  the  village,  each 
having  a  piece  of  chalk.  With  this  chalk 
they  mark  the  gates,  doors,  shutters,  and 
waggons  with  the  date  of  the  new  year.  It 
is  considered  lucky  to  have  one's  house  so 
dated,  and  no  attempt  is  ever  made  to  dis- 
turb the  youths  in  the  execution  of  their 

There  are  many  old  rhymes  which  were 
sung  by  the  maidens  as  they  carried  from 
door  to  door  a  bowl  richly  decorated  with 


evergreens  and  ribbons,  and  filled  with  a 
compound  of  ale,  roasted  apples,  and  toast, 
and  seasoned  with  nutmeg  and  sugar.  Here 
is  one  from  Nottinghamshire,  but  I  know 
not  whether  it  is  still  sung  : — 

"  Good  master,  at  your  door 
Our  wassail  we  begin ; 
We  all  are  maidens  poor, 
So  we  pray  you  let  us  in, 
And  drink  our  wassail. 

All  hail,  wassail ! 

Wassail!  wassail! 
And  drink  our  wassail ! l? 

Halliwell,  in  his  "  Popular  Rhymes,"  gives 
the  following,  which  was  sung  at  Yarmouth, 
Isle  of  Wight : 1— 

"  Wassal,  wassal,  to  our  town ; 
The  cup  is  white  and  the  ale  is  brown ; 
The  cup  is  made  of  the  ashen  tree, 
And  so  is  the  ale  of  the  good  barley. 
Little  maid,  little  maid,  turn  the  pin, 
Open  the  door  and  let  us  in ; 
God  be  here,  God  be  there, 
I  wish  you  all  a  happy  New  Year." 

At  Oldham,  in  Lancashire,  the  wassailers 
still  come  round  with  their  bunches  of  ever- 
greens hung  with  oranges  and  apples  and 

1  Cf.  Folk-Lore  Journal,  1884,  p.  25. 


Old  English   Customs 

coloured    ribbons,    and    sing    the    following 
carol : — 

"  Here  we  come  a-wassailing 

Among  the  leaves  so  green  ; 
Here  we  come  a-singing, 

So  fair  to  be  seen. 
For  it  is  in  Christmas-time 

Strangers  travel  far  and  near ; 
So  God  bless  you,  and  send  you 

A  happy  new  year." 

Until  quite  recently,  in  the  same  town,  a 
gang  of  men  used  to  come  round  "  agganow- 
ing,"  and  sang  a  strange  ditty,  which  ran 
something  after  this  fashion  :— 

"  We're  come  to  give  you  warning 
It's  New  Year's  Day  a  morning, 
With  a  hey  and  a  how, 
And  an  aggan  agganow." 

Possibly  this  may  be  connected  with  the 
old  Hagmanay  or  Hogmanay  carol  which 
used  to  be  sung  in  the  North  Country  at  this 
time  of  year.  Brewer  derives  the  word  from 
the  Saxon  hdlig  monath,  or  holy  month,  and 
states  that  King  Haco  of  Norway  fixed  the 
feast  of  Yule  on  Christmas  Day,  the  eve  of 
which  was  called  Hogg-night,  but  the  Scots 
were  taught  by  the  French  to  transfer  the  feast 
of  Yule  to  the  feast  of  Noel,  and  Hogg-night 
has  ever  since  been  the  eve  of  New  Year's  Day. 

In  the  Isle  of  Man  the  old  custom  called 
the  "  Quaaltagh  "  is  still  partially  observed. 

The   i^uaaltagh 

In  almost  every  district  a  party  of  young  men 
go  from  house  to  house  singing  a  rhyme  in 
the  Manx  language,  which  translated  is  as 
follows : — 

"  Again  we  assemble,  a  merry  New  Year 
To  wish  to  each  one  of  the  family  here, 
Whether  man,  woman,  or  girl,  or  boy, 
That  long  life  and  happiness  all  may  enjoy. 
May  they  of  potatoes  and  herrings  have  plenty, 
With  butter  and  cheese  and  each  other  dainty, 
And  may  their  sleep  never,  by  night  or  by  day, 
Disturbed  be  by  even  the  tooth  of  a  flea, 
Until  at  the  Quaaltagh  again  we  appear, 
To  wish  you,  as  now,  all  a  happy  New  Year." 

When  these  lines  are  repeated  at  the  door, 
the  party  are  invited  into  the  house  and  par- 
take of  refreshments.  The  one  who  enters 
first  is  called  the  "  Quaaltagh,"  or  first-foot, 
and,  as  in  the  northern  parts  of  England,  it 
is  essential  for  good  fortune  that  he  should 
be  dark-complexioned.  The  actors  do  not 
assume  a  fantastic  garb  like  the  mummers  of 
England  or  the  guiscards  of  Scotland,  nor 
are  they  accompanied  by  minstrels.  As  in 
Banffshire,  the  housewives  in  many  of  the 
upland  cottages,  before  retiring  to  bed,  spread 
the  ashes  smoothly  on  the  hearth,  and  if  in 
the  morning  the  print  of  a  foot  can  be 
detected  with  the  toe  pointing  towards  the 
door,  they  believe  there  will  be  a  death  in 
the  family  during  the  year;  but  if  the  toe 

Old  English   Customs 

points  in  a  contrary  direction,  the  family  will 
not  fail  to  have  an  increase.  At  St.  Albans 
"Pop  Ladies"  are  cried  and  sold  in  the 
streets,  and  in  parts  of  Wales  children  go 
round  showing  a  "  calening "  and  wishing 
good  luck  in  return  for  pence  or  cake. 

Twelfth  Night,  or  Old  Christmas  Day,  was 
formerly  the  appointed  time  for  the  observ- 
ance of  many  old  customs  which  are  now 
defunct.  No  longer  are  kings  and  queens 
of  rural  festivals  elected  by  the  lot  of  the 
bean  and  the  pea  hidden  in  a  cake.  St.  Dis- 
taff's Day  is  no  more.  We  feared  that  the 
sounds  of  rustic  revelry  had  died  away  when 
the  orchards  were  wassailed  and  the  ancient 
rhyme  chanted — 

"  Here's  to  thee,  old  apple-tree, 
Whence  thou  may'st  bud,  and  whence  thou  may'st  blow, 
And  whence  thou  may'st  bear  apples  enow ! 
Hats  full!  caps  full! 
Bushel — bushel — sacks  full, 
And  my  pockets  full  too !     Huzza  ! " 

But  we  are  relieved  to  find  that  the  apple- 
wassail  has  not  quite  passed  away.  Three 
years  ago  the  custom  prevailed  at  Duncton, 
near  Petworth,  on  the  South  Downs,  and  on 
Old  Christmas  Eve  the  voices  of  the  younger 
villagers  sang  their  lays  to  the  apple-trees, 
the  old  "  Mistletoe  Bough"  being  one  of 
their  favourite  ditties.  The  wassail  is  sup- 

Orchard  Customs 

posed  to  help  the  growth  and  abundance  of 
apples  for  cider-making,  and  "  the  oldest  in- 
habitant" can  recollect  that  the  custom  has 
been  kept  up  for  the  last  fifty  years. 

In  "  Bygone  Days  in  Devonshire  and  Corn- 
wall," published  in  1874,  the  authoress,  Mrs. 
Whitcombe,  states  that  the  above  rhyme  is 
still  repeated  by  the  farmer's  family  and 
friends  when  gathered  round  the  orchard 
trees,  who  sprinkle  cider  over  the  roots  and 
hang  cake  on  the  branches. 

The  custom  of  firing  guns  under  apple- 
trees  is  not  entirely  defunct  in  Devonshire. 
In  1889  the  custom  prevailed  at  Cullompton. 
When  the  parson  was  popular,  the  line  "  old 
parson's  breeches  full,"  was  added  to  the 
rhyme  quoted  above. 

In  Surrey  the  boys  sing  the  following  rhyme 
under  the  apple-trees  in  the  Surrey  orchards: — 

"  Here  stands  a  good  apple-tree, 
Stand  fast  at  root, 
Bear  well  at  top  ; 
Every  little  twig 
Bear  an  apple  big  : 
Every  little  bough 
Bear  an  apple  now  ; 
Hats  full !  caps  full ! 
Threescore  sacks  full ! 
Hullo,  boys  !  hullo  !  " 

We  thought,  too,  that  Plough  Monday 
was  dead,  and  that  the  ploughmen  no  longer 


Old  English  Customs 

dragged  their  ploughs  from  village  to  village, 
dancing  while  "  Bess "  rattled  her  money- 
box. The  money  was  in  pre-Reformation 
times  devoted  to  the  maintenance  of  the 
ploughmen's  light,  which  burned  before  the 
altar  of  the  Ploughmen's  Guild  in  the  chantry 
of  the  church.  But  we  are  glad  to  find  that 
Plough  Monday  is  still  observed  in  Cam- 
bridgeshire, where  bands  of  young  men,  pro- 
fusely ornamented  with  scarves  and  ribbons, 
drag  wooden  ploughs  of  a  primitive  descrip- 
tion along  the  streets.  But  "  Bess,"  a  man 
dressed  as  a  woman,  no  longer  forms  part  of 
this  quaint  procession.  The  custom  also  pre- 
vails in  Huntingdonshire.  At  Great  Grans- 
den  a  party  of  men  decked  with  ribbons  go 
round  the  village  with  a  decorated  plough, 
repeating  in  a  shrill  monotone — 

"  Remember  us  poor  ploughboys, 

A  ploughing  we  must  go  ; 
Hail,  rain,  blow,  or  snow, 
A  ploughing  we  must  go." 

A  few  years  ago  the  men  used  to  plough 
up  the  lawn,  or  the  scrapers  and  door-steps, 
if  no  money  was  given. 

The  Plough  Monday  play,  one  of  the  few 
remaining  specimens  of  English  folk-drama, 
still  survives.  It  resembles  in  some  points 
the  Christmas  and  Easter  plays,  but  has  seve- 
ral distinguishing  features.  In  the  Plough 

Plough   Monday   Play 

Monday  play  there  is  no  St.  George,  and  the 
principal  feature  is  the  sword  -  dance.  In 
Lincolnshire  the  actors  who  drag  the  plough 
along  are  called  plough-bullocks ;  in  Yorks 
they  are  known  as  plough-stotts.  The  play, 
as  performed  recently  at  Wyverton  Hall, 
Nottinghamshire,  is  printed  in  "A  Cavalier 
Stronghold,"  by  Mrs.  Musters.  "Hopper 
Joe  "  carries  a  basket,  as  if  he  were  going  to 
sow  seeds,  in  which  the  spectators  place  money. 
The  sergeant  arrays  himself  in  some  old 
uniform,  and  the  young  lady  always  wears  a 
veil ;  Beelzebub  has  a  blackened  face,  and 
either  a  besom  of  straw  or  a  club  with  a 
bladder  fastened  at  the  end.  The  chief  feature 
of  the  play  is  the  raising  to  life  of  the  old 
woman,  whom  Beelzebub  has  knocked  down, 
by  the  doctor,  who  is  always  dressed  in  the 
smartest  modern  clothes,  with  a  riding-whip 
and  a  top-hat.  Sometimes  they  wear  ribbons 
and  rosettes  and  feathers  stuck  in  their  hats, 
and  the  brass  ornaments  of  their  horses'  har- 
ness hanging  down  in  front.  Sometimes  they 
have  figures  of  small  horses  and  ploughs  in 
red  and  black  fastened  on  their  dress.  One 
of  the  mummers  in  the  Lincolnshire  Plough 
Monday  procession  usually  wears  a  fox's  skin 
in  the  form  of  a  hood,  and  "  Bessy  "  a  bullock's 
tail  under  her  gown,  which  he  holds  in  his 
hand  when  dancing. 

Plough   Monday  is   also  observed  in  the 
49  D 

Old  English   Customs 

City  of  London,  when  a  special  meeting  of 
the  Wards  takes  place,  and  the  Lord  Mayor 
gives  a  banquet. 

There  is  also  the  interesting  ceremony 
performed  every  year  at  the  Chapel  Royal, 
St.  James's  Palace,  when,  on  behalf  of  the 
sovereign,  gold,  frankincense,  and  myrrh  are 
presented  on  the  altar  in  remembrance  of  the 
gifts  of  the  Magi  to  the  Infant  Saviour.1 

At  Haxey,  in  North  Lincolnshire,  on  the 
Feast  of  the  Epiphany,  a  curious  custom 
prevails.  A  roll  of  canvas  tightly  corded 
together,  about  three  inches  in  diameter  and 
two  feet  long,  is  thrown  down  amidst  a  crowd 
of  rural  revellers,  and  a  violent  struggle  for 
its  possession  takes  place.  It  is  called  the 
"  Haxey  Hood,"  and  tradition  states  that  its 
originator  was  a  Lady  Mowbray,  who  when 
riding  to  church  lost  her  hood,  which  was 
blown  off  by  a  gale  of  wind.  Twelve 
labourers  rushed  to  capture  the  lady's  head- 
gear, and  caused  her  much  amusement  by 
their  eager  endeavours.  She  was  so  gratified 
by  their  civility  that  she  promised  to  give  a 
piece  of  ground,  still  called  the  Hoodlands, 
for  the  purpose  of  providing  a  hood  to  be 
thrown  up  annually  on  Old  Christmas  Day, 
and  to  be  contended  for  on  the  same  spot 
where  her  hood  had  been  blown  off.  More- 
over, she  ordered  that  the  twelve  men  should 

1  Cf.  "  Court  Customs,"  infra. 


Haxey  Hood 

be  clothed  in  scarlet  jerkins  and  velvet  caps, 
but  the  boggons,  as  they  are  called,  are  now 
dressed  as  morris-dancers.  Many  people 
flock  to  take  part  in  this  curious  contest, 
and  much  excitement  prevails.  The  hood 
is  thrown  from  the  old  mill,  near  the  spot 
where  the  accident  happened,  and  the  villagers 
strive  to  kick  or  carry  it,  after  the  manner 
of  a  football,  to  their  own  hamlet.  The 
boggons  stand  round  the  field  and  try  to 
prevent  the  hood  from  being  taken  beyond 
its  boundaries.  Should  they  capture  it,  it 
is  taken  to  the  chief  of  the  boggons,  who 
throws  it  again  from  the  mill.  Whoever 
succeeds  in  conveying  it  to  the  cellars  of 
any  public-house  is  rewarded  by  receiving 
one  shilling.  The  next  day  the  boggons, 
or  plough -bullocks,  go  round  dragging  a 
small  plough,  and  collect  money,  crying 
"  Largess,"  and  run  races  and  wrestle  in  the 
evening.  This  is  a  curious  survival  of  an 
ancient  custom. 

In  Suffolk  it  has  always  been  usual  in 
farmhouses  to  have  furmety  at  meals,  espe- 
cially at  breakfast,  during  the  period  from 
Christmas  to  Old  Christmas  Day.  In  Leices- 
tershire special  cakes  are  given  to  children 
on  the  Epiphany  feast.  In  Worcestershire 
Epiphany  or  Old  Christmas  Day  is  observed 
much  as  Christmas  Day  itself,  and  during 
this  season  bands  of  musicians  go  round 


Old  English   Customs 

and   play  at   the  houses  in  the   neighbour- 

In  the  north  of  Hampshire  the  old  villagers 
sit  up  till  twelve  o'clock  on  Old  Christmas 
Night,  and  as  soon  as  they  hear  the  leaves 
rustling  they  go  to  the  nearest  cow  or  horse 
stable  to  watch  the  animals  stand  up  and  lie 
down  on  their  other  side.  The  villagers 
who  keep  up  the  custom  can  no  longer 
explain  the  meaning  of  it.  The  idea  of 
watching  the  animals  arose  from  the  belief 
that  at  twelve  o'clock  on  the  night  of  the 
Nativity  oxen  knelt  in  their  stalls  in  honour 
of  the  event ;  and  the  rustling  of  the  leaves 
is  connected  with  the  tradition  that  thorn- 
trees  blossom  at  midnight  to  commemorate 
the  Saviour's  birth.  The  same  beliefs  are 
current  in  the  neighbourhood  of  Stoneyhurst, 
Lancashire,  where  there  are  not  wanting  wit- 
nesses to  the  truth  of  the  fact  of  the  midnight 
blossoming.  Cornish  folk  also  believe  that 
sheep  turn  to  the  east  and  bow  their  heads 
on  Old  Christmas  Night  in  memory  of  the 
sheep  belonging  to  the  shepherds  at  Beth- 
lehem. They  take  it  also  that  as  the  sheep 
observe  this  custom  on  Old  Christmas  Night, 
that  must  be  the  actual  day  of  the  Nativity, 
and  not  December  25th.  This  maybe  com- 
pared to  the  old  Yorkshire  custom  of  watch- 
ing the  beehives  on  the  new  and  old  Christmas 
Eve,  to  determine  upon  the  right  Christmas 


Valentine  s  Day 

from  the  humming  noise  which  they  suppose 
the  bees  will  make  on  the  anniversary  of  the 
birth  of  our  Saviour. 

January  24th,  St.  Paul's  Day,  is  a  holiday 
with  the  miners  of  Cornwall,  who  call  it 
Paul  Pitcher  Day,  from  a  custom  they  have 
of  setting  up  a  water  pitcher  and  pelting  it 
with  stones  until  it  is  broken.  A  new  one 
is  then  brought,  and  carried  to  the  ale-house 
to  be  filled  with  beer.  Throwing  broken 
pitchers  and  other  vessels  against  the  door  of 
the  houses  is  also  another  favourite  amuse- 
ment of  Paul  Pitcher  Eve.  Young  men 
perambulate  the  village,  and  exclaim  as  they 
throw  the  sherds — 

"  St.  Paul's  Eve, 
And  here's  a  heave." a 

St.  Valentine's  Day,  the  time-honoured 
festival  of  lovers,  the  theme  of  poets,  has 
been  shorn  of  its  ancient  glories,  although 
valentines  still  adorn  the  shop-windows  on 
February  I4th.  The  saint  was  a  priest  and 
martyr  in  Italy  in  the  third  century,  and 
why  the  day  of  his  death  should  have  been 
selected  for  the  drawing  of  lots  for  sweet- 
hearts and  for  sending  affectionate  greetings 
is  not  very  evident.  The  custom  seems  to 
have  originated  in  France,  whence  it  migrated 

1  This  is  mentioned  in  Notes  and  Queries,  1874,  and  I  gather 
from  Miss  Courtney's  article  in  Folk-Lore  that  it  still  exists. 


Old  English   Customs 

to  Scotland,  and  thence  to  England.  The 
first  Sunday  in  Lent  was,  in  ancient  times, 
the  usual  day  for  its  observance,  and  that 
day  was  generally  known  as  le  jour  des  valen- 
tines, when  the  maidens  selected  their  valen- 
tines as  gallants  or  future  husbands.  Hence 
our  Valentine's  Day  is  really  the  "  day  of 
valentines,"  when  valentines  or  gallants  were 
chosen,  and  is  in  no  way  connected  with  the 
saint  whose  feast  has  been  commonly  asso- 
ciated with  the  festival  of  lovers.1 

In  Leicestershire  lozenge-shaped  buns,  with 
currants  and  caraways,  called  shittles,  are 
given  to  the  old  people  and  children  on  this 
day,  notably  at  Glaston  and  Market  Overton 
(Rutland).  The  bakers  call  them  "  valentine 

Some  very  homely  rhymes  are  still  sent  by 
rural  lovers  to  their  adored  ones.  From 
Islip,  Oxfordshire,  we  have  the  following  :— 

"  Come,  my  little  sogar  dear, 
Wash  your  face  and  curl  your  hair, 
And  you'll  be  mine  and  I'll  be  thine, 
And  so  good-morrow,  Valentine. 
As  I  sat  in  my  garden  chair, 
I  saw  two  birds  fly  in  the  air, 
And  two  by  two  and  pair  by  pair, 
Which  made  me  think  of  you,  my  dear." 

1  Cf,  a  note  by  F.  Chance  in  Notes  and  Queries,  7th  Series, 
v.,  Feb.  1 8,  1888. 


Valentine  s  Day 

It  is  not  necessary  to  record  the  ancient 
customs  which  prevailed  on  this  day,  long 
since  obsolete,  when  fair  maidens  refused  to 
open  their  eyes  until  their  favourite  admirers 
appeared  and  claimed  the  privilege  of  being 
their  valentine  for  the  year,  or  when  a  happy 
youth  drew  by  lot  the  name  of  some  girl 
whom  he  was  bound  by  all  the  laws  of  St. 
Valentine  to  admire  and  serve  as  her  gallant 
lover.  The  written  valentine  was  of  later 
growth,  and  many  a  fate  has  the  following 
effusion  sealed : — 

"  The  rose  is  red,  the  violet  blue, 
The  pink  is  sweet,  and  so  are  you. 
Thou  art  my  love,  and  I  am  thine ; 
I  drew  thee  to  my  valentine ; 
The  lot  was  cast,  and  then  I  drew, 
And  fortune  said  it  should  be  you." 

The  boys  of  Berkshire  are  more  practical, 
and  use  the  opportunity  for  collecting  small 
bribes,  repeating  the  following  rhyme  : — 

"  Knock  the  kittle  agin  the  pan, 

Gie  us  a  penny  if  'e  can ; 
We  be  ragged  an'  you  be  vine, 

Plaze  to  gie  us  a  valentine. 
Up  wi*  the  kittle  and  down  wi'  the  spout, 

Gie  us  a  penny  an'  we'll  gie  out." 

The  meaning  of  "  we'll  gie  out "  appears  to 
be  "  we'll  stop  singing." 

At  the  village  of  High  Roding,  Essex,  the 


Old  English   Customs 

children,  according  to  ancient  custom,  visit 
the  houses  of  the  residents  and  sing  with 
great  glee  the  lines — 

"  Good  morning  to  your  valentine, 
Curl  your  locks  as  I  do  mine ; 
Two  before  and  two  behind, 
Good  morning  to  your  valentine. 
I  only  come  but  once  a  year, 
Pray  give  me  some  money  as  I  stand  here, 
A  piece  of  cake  or  a  glass  of  wine, 
Good  morning  to  your  valentine." 

Among  the  gratuities  distributed  are  the 
usual  batch  of  bright  new  sixpences,  one  of 
which  is  given  to  every  child  in  the  parish 
who  presents  himself  or  herself  at  the  Ware 
Farm  at  eight  A.M.  on  Valentine's  Day. 
The  same  verses  are  sung  at  Duxford,  Cam- 

In  East  Anglia  it  is  customary  to  leave 
small  presents  on  the  doorstep,  to  ring  the 
bell  violently,  and  then  run  away.  It  is 
not  always  easy  to  transplant  old  customs, 
and  I  can  well  remember  the  trouble  which  a 
Suffolk  doctor  brought  upon  himself,  who, 
on  removing  to  a  northern  county,  tried  to 
gain  the  affections  of  his  new  patients  by 
introducing  this  harmless  pleasantry.  The 
natives  did  not  understand  the  custom,  and 
thought  that  it  might  be  connected  with  the 
first  of  April. 


A  remarkable  set  of  verses  comes  from 
Northrepps,  where  the  children  sing  : — 

"  Good  morrow,  Valentine ! 

How  it  do  Hail ! 
When  Father's  pig  die, 
You  shall  ha'  its  tail. 

Good  morrow,  Valentine  ! 

How  thundering  Hot ! 
When  Father's  pig  die, 

You  shall  ha'  its  jot." 

The  jot  is  the  tripe  of  the  pig,  considered  a 
delicacy  by  Norfolk  poor  people. 

The  annual  custom  of  holding  a  hurling 
match  continues  at  St.  Ives,  Cornwall,  and  is 
observed  on  the  Monday  after  the  feast  day 
which  falls  on  Quinquagesima  Sunday.  It  is 
scarcely  necessary  to  describe  the  old  game  of 
hurling,  which  resembles  a  Rugby  game  of 
football  without  the  kicking  of  the  ball.  The 
ball  is  about  the  size  of  a  cricket-ball,  formed 
of  cork  or  light  wood.  It  is  certainly  "  a 
play  verily  both  rude  and  rough,"  as  an  old 
writer  aptly  describes  it.  Formerly  village 
fought  with  village  at  these  annual  hurling 
matches;  but  probably  on  account  of  the 
severe  rivalry  and  ferocity  displayed  these 
contests  were  discontinued.  But  at  St.  Ives 
one  part  of  a  parish  plays  against  another  on 
the  sands  on  the  day  of  the  feast.  All  the 

Old  English   Customs 

Toms,  Wills,  and  Johns  are  on  one  side, 
while  those  having  other  Christian  names 
range  themselves  on  the  other.  At  St. 
Columb  the  towns-folk  contend  against  the 
country-folk;  at  Truro  the  married  men 
with  the  unmarried ;  and  at  Helston  two 
streets  with  all  the  other  streets.  This  takes 
place  on  May  2nd,  when  the  boundaries  of 
the  town  are  perambulated. 


Lenten  customs  —  Shrove  Tuesday  —  Pancake- 
bell — Shroving — Tossing  pancakes  at  Westminster 
— Devonshire  rhymes —  Welsh  survival  of  thrash- 
ing the  hen — Coquilles  at  Norwich — Football  on 
Shrove  Monday — Mothering  Sunday — Simnels — 
Care  Sunday — Palm  Sunday  and  ball-play — Fig 
Sunday — Spy  Wednesday — Maundy  Thursday — 
Good  Friday  and  hot  cross  buns — Skipping  on 
Good  Friday  and  marbles — Guildford  custom — 
Custom  at  St.  Bartholomew  s  Church,  London — 
Blue-Coat  School  custom  —  Flogging  Judas — 
Cornish  custom  of  gathering  shell  -Jish  —  St. 
David's  Day. 

1  HE  season  of  Lent  has  many  customs 
which  linger  on.  It  is  ushered  in  by  Shrove 
Tuesday,  when  in  ancient  times  the  people 
flocked  to  the  confessional  to  be  shriven, 
or  shrove,  before  the  great  fast  commenced. 
We  have  nothing  in  this  country  which 
corresponds  with  the  Carnival  on  the  Con- 
tinent, although  something  of  the  same  kind 
of  festivity  was  once  practised  here,  as  an  old 
writer  testifies : — 

"  Some  run  about  the  streets  attired  like  monks,  and 

some  like  kings, 

Accompanied   with   pomp   and  guard,  and  other 
stately  things ; 


Old  English   Customs 

Some  like  wild  beasts  do  run  abroad  in  skins  that 
divers  be 

Arrayed,  and  eke  with  loathsome  shapes,  that  dread- 
ful are  to  see ; 

They  counterfeit  both  bears  and  wolves,  and  lions 
fierce  in  sight,  : 

And  raging  bulls ;  some  play  the  cranes,  with  wings 
and  stilts  upright." 

Our  modern  carnival  is  a  much  less  riotous 
proceeding,  and  generally  resolves  itself  into 
eating  pancakes.  Shrove  Tuesday  is  often 
called  "  Pancake  Day,"  and  at  many  places 
a  bell  is  rung  which  is  called  "  pancake-bell." 
This  bell  formerly  called  the  faithful  to  the 

At  Culworth,  Northamptonshire,  and  at 
Crowle,  Lincolnshire,  the  pancake-bell  may 
still  be  heard,  and  also  at  the  pretty  village 
of  Church  Minshull,  Cheshire,  and  at  Morley, 
near  Leeds,  the  old  custom  has  been  observed 
without  intermission  for  over  a  hundred 

The  children  in  Berkshire  have  still  their 
rhymes  which  they  sing  on  this  day,  and 
receive  their  accustomed  bribes.  At  Purley 
they  say — 

"  Knick-knock,  pan's  hot, 
I'm  come  a-shroving ; 
Bit  of  bread  and  a  bit  of  cheese, 
That's  better  than  nothing. 

1  Cf.  "  Bell  Customs."     At  numerous  churches  in  Leicester- 
shire and  Rutlandshire  the  bell  is  rung. 

Shrove   Tuesday 

Last  year's  flour's  dear 

That's  what  makes  poor  Purley  children  come 
shroving  here. 

Hip,  hip,  hurrah ! 

Up  with  the  pitcher  and  down  with  the  pan, 
Give  me  a  penny  and  I'll  be  gone." 

At  Baldon,  Oxfordshire,  a  similar  rhyme 
is  sung : — 

"  Pit-a-pat,  the  pan's  hot, 
I  be  come  a-shroving ; 
Catch  a  fish  afore  the  net, 
That's  better  than  nothing. 
Eggs,  lard,  and  flour's  dear, 
This  makes  me  come  a-shroving  here." 

These  rhymes  have  many  variants,  which 
need  not  now  be  enumerated.  They  may  be 
heard  in  various  forms  in  all  the  Southern, 
and  Midland  counties.  Sometimes  the  shrov- 
ing children  have  unpleasant  ways  of  signify- 
ing their  displeasure  should  the  accustomed 
gift  be  not  forthcoming.  This  they  do  by 
throwing  stones  at  the  door  and  singing — 

"  Skit- scat,  skit-scat, 
Take  this,  and  take  that," 

or  by  tying  a  stone  to  the  door  handle. 

The  origin  of  eating  pancakes  on  Shrove 
Tuesday  has  been  much  disputed.     The  fol- 
lowing suggestion   by  a  learned  ecclesiastic 
of  the  Roman  Church  possibly  contains  the 

Old  English   Customs 

explanation  of  the  custom.  "When  Lent 
was  kept  by  a  strict  abstinence  from  meat 
all  through  the  forty  days,  it  was  customary 
to  use  up  all  the  dripping  and  lard  in  the 
making  of  pancakes.  To  consume  all,  it 
was  usual  to  call  in  the  apprentice-boys  and 
others  about  the  house,  and  they  were  sum- 
moned by  a  bell,  which  was  naturally  called 
'  pancake-bell.' " * 

An  interesting  survival  of  "  tossing  the 
pancake  "  exists  at  Westminster  School,  and 
is  accompanied  with  several  quaint  obser- 
vances. The  cook,  bearing  a  frying-pan  with 
a  pancake,  is  conducted  by  a  verger  carrying 
the  silver  mace  from  the  college  kitchen  to- 
the  great  schoolroom,  when  all  the  boys  are 
assembled.  The  cook  tries  to  toss  the  pan- 
cake over  an  iron  bar  which  runs  across  the 
schoolroom  from  one  wall  to  another.  If 
the  pancake  goes  clear  over,  the  boys  make 
a  rush  and  try  each  to  catch  it  whole.  The 
boy  who  gets  it  whole  receives  a  guinea  from 
the  Dean  on  showing  it  in  an  unbroken  con- 
dition. The  cook  also  receives  ten  shillings 
if  he  does  his  part  properly.  Now-a-days, 
only  so  many  boys  join  in  the  struggle  for 
the  pancake  as  there  are  forms  in  the  school. 
Each  form  names  a  representative.  Formerly 
the  whole  school  made  a  rush,  which  was 
rather  a  dangerous  sport,  and  very  wisely  the 

1  Notes  and  Queries,  8th  Series,  i.,  March  5,  1892. 

Shrove   'Tuesday 

number    of  competitors    for   the   prize  has 
been  limited. 

From  Bridestowe,  Devonshire,  we  have 
received  a  few  simple  rhymes,  written  by  a 
girl  in  the  village  as  they  are  usually  sung. 
The  words  are  : — 

"Lain  crock,  pancake,  fritter  for  our  labour, 
Dish  o'  meal,  piece  of  bread,  or  what  you  please  to 
give  me. 

I  see  by  the  string 
There's  a  good  thing  in ; 
I  see  by  the  latch 
There's  something  to  catch. 
Trip  a  trap  tro  ! 

Give  me  my  hump  and  I'll  be  go. 
Nine  times,  ten  times,  men  come  shroving, 
Pray,  dame,  something,  an  apple  or  a  dumpling, 
Or  a  piece  of  chuckle  cheese  of  your  own  making, 
Or  a  piece  of  pancake  of  your  own  baking. 
Trip  a  trap  tro  !  &c." 

In  some  parts  of  Wales  there  is  a  custom 
of  casting  thin  lead  figures  of  birds  and  ani- 
mals, which  are  set  up  and  thrown  at  by 
boys  with  chunks  of  lead  on  Shrove  Tuesday. 
Whatever  the  shape  of  the  figure  may  be,  it 
is  called  "  a  bird."  If  it  is  knocked  down, 
it  becomes  the  property  of  the  thrower,  but 
every  chunk  of  lead  that  fails  to  knock  down 
a  bird  is  claimed  by  the  owner  of  the  bird. 
This  is  probably  a  survival  of  the  ancient 
and  cruel  sport  of  threshing  the  hen,  thus 


Old  English   Customs 

mentioned  by  Tusser  in  his  "  Five  Hundred 
Points  of  Good  Husbandry  : " — 

"  Come,  go  to  the  barn  now,  my  jolly  ploughmen, 
Blindfolded,  and  speedily  thresh  the  fat  hen ; 
And  if  you  can  kill  her,  then  give  her  thy  men, 
And  go  ye  on  fritters  and  pancakes  dine  then." 

Well  might  a  foreign  visitor  to  our  shores 
sagely  remark  that  "  the  English  eat  a  certain 
cake  on  Shrove  Tuesday,  upon  which  they 
immediately  run  mad  and  kill  their  poor 

At  Norwich  a  custom  prevails  of  selling 
at  the  bakers'  and  confectioners'  shops  a  small 
currant-loaf  called  a  "  coquille,"  which  the 
boys  also  cry  in  the  streets.  A  notice  at  the 
shops  runs  as  follows  : — "  Hot  coquilles  on 
Tuesday  morning  at  eight  o'clock,  and  in 
the  afternoon  at  four  o'clock."  Probably  the 
word  is  derived  from  its  shell-like  shape 
(jcoquille  =  shell)  ;  but  another  authority  con- 
nects it  with  "  coquerell "  or  cock,  and  sup- 
poses that  the  cake  was  sold  when  the  old 
sport  of  throwing  at  cocks  was  in  vogue  on 
this  day. 

Shrove  Tuesday  is  a  day  celebrated  for  its 
famous  football  encounters,  which  are  not, 
like  ordinary  games,  fought  out  on  a  level 
field  between  goal-posts,  but  are  entirely  of 
another  character.  At  Sedgefield  the  church 
clerk  and  sexton  had,  according  to  imme- 

Football  on   Shrove   Tuesday 

morial  custom,  to  find  a  ball  to  be  played 
for  by  the  trades-folk  and  villagers  on  this 
day.  The  goal  of  the  former  is  at  the  south 
of  the  village,  that  of  the  latter  is  a  pond  at 
the  north  end.  The  ball  is  put  through  the 
bull-ring  in  the  middle  of  the  village.  The 
game  always  begins  at  one  o'clock,  and  is 
fought  out  for  three  or  four  hours  with 
much  ferocity.  There  are  no  rules  of  "  off- 
side," or  of  "no  charging  or  hacking  allowed." 
All  is  fair  in  love  or  war,  and  also  in  the 
old-fashioned  football  of  England  and  Scot- 
land. At  Chester-le-Street  they  have  an 
annual  match  between  the  "  up-street "  and 
"  down  -  street "  folk  on  Shrove  Tuesday. 
The  contest  takes  place  in  the  street,  the 
windows  being  all  carefully  barricaded ;  and 
a  burn  lies  in  the  course  of  the  players,  who 
rush  into  the  water,  and  enjoy  a  fine  scrim- 
mage there.  At  Alnwick  the  contest  used 
to  take  place  in  the  street,  but  the  Duke  of 
Northumberland  instituted  an  annual  match, 
which  now  takes  place  in  "  the  Pasture  "  every 
Shrove  Tuesday  between  the  parishioners  of 
the  two  parishes  of  St.  Michael  and  St.  Paul. 
The  committee  receives  the  ball  at  the  barbi- 
can of  the  castle  from  the  porter,  and  march 
to  the  field  headed  by  the  Duke's  piper, 
where  the  contest  takes  place,  after  which  a 
fine  struggle  takes  place  for  the  possession 
of  the  ball.  In  Scotland,  the  streets  of  Duns 

6S  E 

Old  English   Customs 

are  enlivened  by  a  game  of  handball  on 
Fasten  E'en.  The  ball  is  started  in  state 
by  the  lord  of  the  manor,  and  the  goals  are 
the  kirk  and  the  mill. 

The  football  on  Shrove  Tuesday  is  still 
played  at  Dorking  in  the  streets,  as  in  the 
days  of  yore.  The  tradesmen  wisely  barri- 
cade their  shops,  and  a  collection  is  made 
during  the  morning  throughout  the  streets, 
nominally  to  defray  the  cost  of  damages. 
The  footballers  first  parade  the  streets  clad 
in  grotesque  costumes,  and  bands  of  music 
accompany  the  procession.  The  football  is 
kicked  off  in  the  centre  of  the  High  Street 
at  two  o'clock,  and  all  who  wish  join  in  the 
game.  The  play  is  furious  and  the  ball  is 
kicked  everywhere,  sometimes  reaching  the 
fields  at  the  outskirts  of  the  town.  During 
four  hours  the  contest  lasts,  and  towards  the 
end  of  the  struggle  there  is  much  excitement 
and  vigorous  kicking,  extremely  dangerous 
to  the  limbs  of  the  competitors.  The  old 
custom  of  tolling  the  pancake-bell  during 
the  morning  has  now  been  discontinued. 

"  Clipping  of  churches "  was  formerly 
practised  in  Wiltshire,  when  the  children 
joined  hands  round  the  church,  walked 
round  three  times,  and  repeated  the  lines— 

"  Shrove  Tuesday,  Shrove  Tuesday,  poor  Jack  went 

to  plough, 

His  mother  made  pancakes,  she  scarcely  knew  how ; 

Shrove  Tuesday 

She  tossed  them,  she  turned  them,  she  made  them 

so  black, 
With  soot  from  the  chimney  that  poisoned  poor 


This  rhyme  was   current   in  Shropshire  ten 
years  ago,  and  is  probably  still  existing. 

In  Cornwall  all  the  mischief  inherent  in 
human  nature  used  to  be  called  into  play 
on  this  day.  Women  rubbed  the  faces  of 
passers-by  with  sooty  hands;  people  threw 
water  over  everybody  they  came  into  contact 
with ;  knockers  were  wrenched  off;  gates 
unhung  and  carried  away ;  boys  prowled  the 
streets  on  "  Nickanan  Night  "  with  clubs,  like 
imps  of  darkness,  beating  at  doors,  and  carry- 
ing off  whatever  they  could  seize,  and  many 
other  pleasant  attentions  were  paid  by  friendly 
neighbours  in  order  to  keep  up  old  customs 
and  to  promote  the  happiness  of  mankind ! 
Happily  these  have  passed  away,  and  the 
former  victims  of  such  pleasantries  will  not 
regret  their  departure. 

The  voice  of  rural  revelry  is  hushed  during 
\  the  first  few  weeks  of  Lent,  and  no  popular 
j  customs  break  the  stillness   of  the  spring- 
time fast  until  Mid-Lent  Sunday  is  reached. 
This   day  has  several   pleasing  associations. 
It  is  called  "  Mothering  Sunday,"  and  from 
early  times  it  has  been  the  custom  for  chil- 
dren who  were  absent  from  home  in  service 
to  visit  their  parents  on  this  day.     This  prac- 

Old  English   Customs 

tice  arose  from  an  ancient  ordinance  of  the 
Church  requiring  the  priests  and  people  to 
visit  the  mother-church  of  the  district  on 
Mothering  Sunday,  and  long  ago  this  eccle- 
siastical custom  became  generally  associated 
with  the  pleasant  gathering  of  families  and 
the  renewing  of  the  ties  of  home  life.  Her- 
rick  sang  of  this  custom  in  his  beautiful 
poem — 

"  I'll  to  thee  a  simnell  bring, 
'Gainst  thou  go'st  a  mothering ; 
So  that  when  she  blesseth  thee, 
Half  the  blessing  thou'lt  give  me." 

It  is  satisfactory  to  know  that  this  custom 
of  "  Merrie  England"  still  prevails  in  some 
of  the  rural  parts  of  Gloucestershire  and  also 
in  Radnorshire.  At  Selsby,  near  Stroud,  the 
servants  are  accustomed  to  ask  for  leave  of 
absence  on  this  day,  pleading  that  it  is 
Mothering  Sunday,  and  a  certain  cake  coated 
with  white  and  embellished  with  pink  is  par- 
taken of.  At  Wotton-under-Edge,  in  the 
same  county,  the  festival  is  observed  at  the 
"  Swan  Inn,"  where  cake  and  wine  are  pro- 
vided for  all  the  servants,  who  are  allowed 
to  bring  with  them  their  friends  and  sweet- 
hearts. In  the  district  of  Rossendale  Mother- 
ing Sunday  is  still  the  day  for  the  gathering 
of  scattered  members  of  families,  and  it  is 
customary  there  to  make  a  "  Fag,"  i.e.)  a 

Mothering   Sunday 

fig-pie,  for  this  special  social  entertainment. 
As  a  family  festival  the  day  is  observed  in 
Leicestershire,  and  young  people  flock  home- 
wards and  eat  veal  and  furmety. 

The  day  is  still  observed  in  Worcester- 
shire. At  Stoulton,  children  return  home  for 
the  day,  and  often  bring  a  present  to  their 
parents ;  and  often  families  make  a  point  of 
attending  church.  Veal  is  the  appointed 
viand  of  the  day,  and  consequently  it  is  in 
great  demand. 

This  Sunday  is  also  called  Simnel  Sunday, 
so  named  from  the  special  cakes  eaten  on 
that  day.  The  word  Simnel  is  derived  from 
the  Latin  word  simila?  signifying  fine  wheat- 
flour,  and  not  from  the  fictitious  personages 
Simon  and  Nell  whom  popular  tradition  has 
credited  with  the  manufacture  of  the  first 
Simnel.  Even  Lambert  Simnel,  the  preten- 
der, who  was  by  trade  a  baker,  has  been 
credited  with  the  invention.  Bury,  in  Lan- 
cashire, is  the  great  place  for  these  cakes, 
which  often  resemble  the  largest  wedding- 
cake,  and  the  custom  of  eating  them  on  this 
day  is  prevalent  throughout  Lancashire.  The 
streets  of  Bury  used  to  be  blocked  with  stalls, 
on  which  were  displayed  simnels  of  various 
sorts,  and  crowds  assembled  from  all  the  sur- 
rounding neighbourhood. 

Passion  Sunday,  the  second  before  Easter, 

1  Cf.  German  word  Semmel,  signifying  a  roll  of  best  bread. 


Old  English   Customs 

is  also  called  Care  Sunday,  according  to  the 
old  Nottinghamshire  rhyme — 

"  Care  Sunday,  care  away, 
Palm  Sunday  and  Easter  Day." 

Why  it  is  so  named  is  a  disputed  question. 
Some  derive  it  from  the  word  karr^  signi- 
fying a  satisfaction  for  a  debt,  alluding  to 
the  satisfaction  made  by  our  Saviour ;  others 
connect  it  with  carl  or  ceorl,  meaning  a 
husbandman.1  At  any  rate,  the  custom  of 
eating  "  carling  peas,"  ?'.£.,  peas  fried  in  butter 
with  vinegar  and  pepper,  exists  still  in  York- 
shire and  Northumberland. 

Palm  Sunday  has  several  interesting  customs 
which  commemorate  the  triumphant  entry  of 
our  Lord  into  Jerusalem,  when  the  people 
took  branches  of  palm-trees  and  scattered 
them  in  the  way.  In  Wiltshire  "  palms,"  or 
branches  of  willow  and  hazel,  are  carried  to 
Martinsell,  a  hill  near  Marlborough.  A 
curious  game  is  usually  played  there  on  this 
day,  consisting  in  hitting  a  ball  gradually  up 
the  steep  slope  of  the  hill  to  the  summit 
with  crooked  sticks.  A  line  of  boys  with 
bandy  or  hockey  sticks  in  their  hands  are 
ranged  on  the  northern  side  of  the  hill,  one 
above  the  other ;  they  hit  or  "  pass  "  a  ball 
up  from  one  boy  to  the  other  till  it  reaches 

1  The  derivation  of  c are  has  been  much  disputed.     Cf.  Hamp- 
son's  "  Med.  CEvi.  Kalend.,"  and  Dyer's  "Popular  Customs." 

Palm   Sunday 

the  last  boy,  who  knocks  it  to  the  top, 
whence  it  falls  to  the  bottom  of  the  hill  and 
the  game  recommences.  A  similar  game  is 
played  at  Roundway  Hill. 

In  very  many  places  "  palms  "  are  worn  on 
Palm  Sunday.  In  some  villages  it  is  known 
as  "  Fig  Sunday."  At  Edlesborough,  Buck- 
inghamshire, the  children  procure  figs,  and 
nearly  every  house  has  a  fig-pudding.  For 
some  days  beforehand  the  shop-windows  of 
the  neighbouring  town  of  Dunstable  are  full 
of  figs,  and  on  Palm  Sunday  crowds  go 
to  the  top  of  Dunstable  Downs,  one  of  the 
highest  points  in  the  neighbourhood,  and 
eat  figs.  Nor  is  this  custom  confined  to 
Buckinghamshire ;  until  quite  lately  people 
used  to  assemble  on  Silbury  Hill  on  the  same 
Sunday  and  eat  figs,  and  fig-puddings  were 
much  in  vogue. 

The  custom  of  observing  "Fig  Sunday" 
prevails  in  the  counties  of  Bedford,  Bucks, 
Hertford,  Northampton,  Oxford,  Wilts,  and 
North  Wales.  At  Kempton,  in  Hertford- 
shire, it  has  long  been  the  custom  for  the 
people  to  eat  figs — "  keep  warsel  " — and  make 
merry  with  their  friends  on  Palm  Sunday. 
More  figs  are  sold  in  the  shops  on  the  few 
days  previous  to  the  festival  than  in  all  the 
year  beside.  Probably  it  is  connected  with 
the  withering  of  the  barren  fig-tree,  the 
account  of  which  immediately  follows  the 

Old  English   Customs 

narrative  of  the  triumphal  entry  into  Jeru- 

Amongst  the  Irish  Roman  Catholics  the 
Wednesday  in  Holy  Week  is  known  as  Spy 
Wednesday,  the  spy  being  Judas,  who  be- 
trayed our  Lord.1  The  Thursday  in  Holy 
Week,  commonly  called  Maundy  Thursday, 
is  observed  at  Court  by  the  presentation  of 
the  royal  Maundy  gifts  to  poor  people.2  A 
full  account  of  the  ceremony  is  given  in  the 
chapter  relating  to  Court  Customs.  The 
word  Maundy  is  derived  from  the  Latin  word 
mandatum?  and  refers  to  the  command  of 
our  Lord  to  His  Apostles  to  imitate  His 
example  in  the  humility  which  He  showed 
in  washing  the  feet  of  His  disciples. 

Good  Friday  has  very  many  customs  con- 
nected with  it  which  abound  in  interest. 
Every  one  is  familiar  with  the  practice  of 
eating  hot  cross  buns  on  this  day,  and 
the  well-known  rhyme,  which  has  several 
variants — 

"  One  a  penny,  two  a  penny, 

Hot  cross  buns ; 
If  you  have  no  daughters, 
Give  them  to  your  sons ; 

But  if  you  have  none  of  these  merry  little  elves, 
Then  you  may  keep  them  all  for  yourselves." 

1  Notes  and  Queries.  2  Cf.  "Court  Customs,"  p.  257. 

8  According  to  Archdeacon  Nares,  Maundy  is  derived  from 
the  maund,  a  corruption  of  the  Saxon  rnand,  a  basket. 

Hot  Cross  Buns 

This  custom  is  as  old  as  the  Romans,  who 
were  accustomed  to  present  to  their  gods 
consecrated  bread.  Two  loaves  were  dis- 
covered at  Herculaneum  marked  by  a  cross. 
The  Romans  divided  their  sacred  cakes  with 
lines  intersecting  each  other  at  right  angles, 
and  called  the  quarters  quadra?  The  cross 
on  the  buns  eaten  on  Good  Friday  now  has 
another  meaning. 

In  Worcestershire  hot  cross  buns  made 
on  this  day  are  supposed  never  to  become 
mouldy,  and  a  loaf  made  and  baked  on 
Good  Friday,  and  hung  in  the  kitchen,  averts 
ill-luck,  and  when  grated  is  an  excellent 
remedy  for  various  illnesses. 

Much  has  been  written  concerning  the 
origin  of  hot  cross  buns.  The  Romans 
made  their  sacred  cakes  in  honour  of  Diana, 
whose  festival  was  observed  soon  after  the 
vernal  equinox.  The  original  home  of  the 
custom,  where  it  is  chiefly  observed,  is  Cam- 
bridgeshire and  Hertfordshire.  There  the 
old  Roman  roads  the  Ickneld  Street  and 
the  Armynge  Street  crossed.  There  stood 
in  Roman  times  the  altar  of  Diana  of  the 
Crossways,  to  whom  the  Romans  offered 
their  sacred  cakes.  There,  too,  the  custom 
of  eating  hot  cross  buns  is  chiefly  observed, 
whereas  in  many  parts  of  England  (e.g.,  Bath) 

1  Northall's  "  English  Folk-Rhymes."    Cf.  Virgil,  &n.  bk.  vii.; 
Martial,  bk.  iii.  Epig.  77. 


Old  English   Customs 

they  are  quite  unknown.  This  is  a  curious 
survival  of  the  Roman  times. 

The  strange  custom  of  skipping  on  Good 
Friday  prevails  at  Brighton,  though  it  is 
rapidly  falling  into  disuse.  Twenty  years 
ago  the  whole  fishing  community  engaged 
in  this  amusement  during  the  whole  day.  It 
was  generally  practised  with  a  long  rope, 
from  six  to  ten  grown-up  people  skipping 
at  one  rope.  Five  years  ago  an  elderly  man 
was  observed  indulging  in  this  pastime,  and 
the  day  is  known  as  "  Long  Rope  Day." 

Playing  marbles  on  Good  Friday  is  also  a 
curious  local  custom  practised  in  nearly  all 
the  Sussex  villages  by  both  boys  and  men. 
It  is  considered  quite  as  wrong  to  omit  this 
solemn  duty  as  to  go  without  the  Christmas 
pudding  or  to  neglect  any  other  imperative 
observance.  No  one  knows  why  tfo^play/ 
marbles  on  Good  Friday. 

No  one  knows  why  the  good  people  of 
Guildford,  Surrey,  make  a  pilgrimage  to  St. 
Martha's  Hill  on  Good  Friday,  where,  on  one 
of  the  most  beautiful  spots  in  Surrey,  near  the 
old  Norman  church,  crowds  collect  and  pass 
the  time  in  singing  and  dancing.  The  latter 
have  been  discontinued  during  recent  years; 
still  many  people  flock  thither,  but  they  are 
chiefly  the  old  folks  who  make  this  pilgrim- 
age. St.  Martha's  Church  is  an  old  pilgrim 
church,  whither  the  faithful  used  to  go  when 

Old  City   Customs 

they  were  on  their  way  to  the  shrine  of  St. 
Thomas  of  Canterbury.  Martha's  Hill  is 
said  to  be  a  corruption  of  Martyr's  Hill,  and 
the  visit  of  the  Guildford  folk  to  this  spot 
is,  doubtless,  a  relic  of  some  ancient  religious 
ceremony  or  pilgrimage. 

Old  customs  die  hard  in  the  City  of  Lon- 
don. In  the  parish  of  St.  Bartholomew  the 
Great,  twenty-one  aged  widows  receive  on 
Good  Friday  the  means  wherewith  to  re- 
member the  piety  of  a  nameless  benefactor. 
According  to  time-honoured  custom,  they 
attend  service  in  the  parish  church,  then  walk 
in  procession  to  the  long-disused  graveyard 
adjoining,  and  proceed  to  pick  off  a  parti- 
cular tombstone  a  new  sixpence,  deposited 
there  by  the  churchwarden ;  and  finally,  on 
leaving  the  scene  of  this  quaint  ceremony, 
are  presented  with  a  hot  cross  bun.  Any 
widow  who  is  incapable  through  the  stiffness 
of  her  joints  to  pick  up  the  coin  is  not  en- 
titled to  receive  it.  The  name  of  the  pious 
citizen  has  been  lost,  as  all  the  records  of  the 
period  were  destroyed  in  the  Great  Fire.  The 
fund  from  which  this  bequest  is  derived  has 
unfortunately  been  diverted,  but  by  the  liber- 
ality of  a  civic  antiquary  the  custom  is  pre- 
served, and  the  poor  widows  still  receive  their 
sixpence.  Another  quaint  ceremony  is  re- 
gularly performed  on  Good  Friday.  Three 
hundred  years  ago,  Peter  Symonds,  a  worthy 


Old  English   Customs 

Londoner  of  the  days  of  Queen  Elizabeth, 
devised  a  sum  of  money  to  be  bestowed  on 
Good  Friday  to  the  youngest  boys  of  the 
Blue-Coat  School,  in  the  shape  of  sixty  new 
pennies  and  sixty  packets  of  raisins.  The 
children  and  poor  of  the  City  parishes  also 
benefit  by  the  same  will,  and  the  money  used 
to  be  given  over  the  tomb  of  the  donor, 
until  the  railway  in  Liverpool  Street  effaced 
the  spot. 

The  curious  custom  of  flogging  Judas 
Iscariot,  though  not  an  English  practice, 
may  be  witnessed  in  any  of  our  ports,  if  any 
Portuguese  or  South  American  vessels  are 
in  the  harbour.  An  effigy  is  made  of  the 
Betrayer,  which  is  ducked  in  the  dock,  and 
then  kicked  and  lashed  with  knotted  ropes, 
amid  the  shouts  and  the  singing  of  a  weird, 
rude  chant  by  the  spectators. 

In  the  far  west  an  old  Cornish  custom 
still  survives  at  St.  Constantine.  On  Good 
Friday  crowds  flock  to  Helford  River  to 
gather  shellfish  (limpets,  cockles,  &c.).  This 
gathering  of  shellfish  on  Good  Friday,  usually 
winkles  from  the  sea,  was  once  very  pre- 
valent all  over  the  county.  The  origin  of 
this  custom  I  dare  not  attempt  to  determine. 
(Folk- Lore. ) 

March  ist  is  St.  David's  Day,  a  festival 
dear  to  all  patriotic  Welshmen.  The  wear- 
ing and  eating  of  the  leek  is  a  common  form 

St.   David's  Day 

of  designating  the  true  Taffy.  In  the  chap- 
ter on  army  customs  we  have  mentioned 
some  of  the  quaint  ceremonies  of  the  Welsh 
Fusileers  on  this  day.  At  Jesus  College, 
Oxford,  much  frequented  by  Welshmen,  the 
undergraduates  wear  leeks,  and  the  Fellows 
usually  have  a  dinner,  at  which  the  guests 
wear  artificial  leeks  in  their  button-holes. 



Easter  customs — Pace  eggs — Clapping  for  eggs 
in  Wales — Pace-egg  play — Biddenden  custom — 
Kentish  pudding-pies — Hallaton  hare-pie  and 
bottle  kicking — School  customs — St.  Mark's  Day 
and  ghosts — Custom  at  St.  Mary's,  Woolnoth 
— Hocktide  at  Hungerford — All  Fools'  Day. 

1  HE  Feast  of  the  Resurrection  is  remark- 
able for  the  almost  universal  practice  of 
giving  Pace  eggs.  The  word  Pace  is  de- 
rived from  Pasche  or  Paschal,  and  we  find 
it  under  the  various  forms  of  pas,  pays, 
pasce,  pask,  pasch,  passhe,  and  many  others. 
The  imagination  of  some  antiquarians  has 
caused  them  to  see  in  the  Paschal  egg  a 
symbol  or  emblem  of  the  Resurrection,  and 
to  pronounce  the  custom  to  be  of  Christian 
origin.  But  it  is  far  older  than  Christianity, 
and  is  common  to  Norse  nations.  In  the 
old  sagas  the  earth  was  symbolised  by  an 
egg ;  in  the  ancient  worship  of  Baal  eggs 
played  a  part ;  and  in  all  probability  the 
Christian  teachers,  finding  that  the  people 
were  devoted  to  the  custom,  diverted  from 
it  the  old  heathen  notions  and  attached  to 
it  Christian  ideas  and  beliefs.  Egyptians, 


Pace  Eggs 

Persians,  Greeks,  and  Romans  all  shared  in 
the  symbolical  use  of  eggs,  and  the  Parsees 
even  now  distribute  red  eggs  at  their  spring 
festival.  Old  Pace  eggs  in  our  own  country 
were  hard-boiled  and  dyed  with  various  colours, 
with  names  and  "  sentiments  "  imprinted  on 
them.  They  were  dyed  with  logwood,  onion 
skins,  pieces  of  coloured  rags,  and  furze 
flowers,  and  yellow,  violet,  and  pink  were 
the  common  colours.  Now  aniline  dyes  are 
used.  Formerly  the  eggs  were  blessed  by  a 
priest.  In  Yorkshire  the  children  roll  their 
highly-coloured  eggs  against  one  another  in 
fields  and  gardens.  The  lads  buy  eggs  and 
press  them  in  the  streets  against  each  other. 

In  Anglesey,  North  Wales,  the  children 
go  from  house  to  house  from  the  Monday 
to  the  Saturday  during  Easter  Week,  clapping 
until  the  door  is  opened  to  them.  Formerly 
they  used  to  recite  the  following  lines : — 

"  Clap,  clap,  dau  tfy 
I  hogyn  bach  ar  y  plwy," 

the  literal  meaning  of  which  is,  "  Clap,  clap, 
(give)  two  eggs  to  little  lad  on  parish." 

The  custom  is  not  confined  to  poor  chil- 
dren, as  the  children  of  well-to-do  parents 
join  in  the  practice.1  When  no  eggs  are 
forthcoming,  each  child  receives  a  penny. 

1  By  the  kindness  of  Lady  Read  I  have  in  my  possession  a 
clapper  which  was  used  in  the  parish  of  Llanfechall  last  Easter. 


Old  English   Customs 

In  Carnarvonshire  the  custom  is  but  a 
memory ;  eighty  years  ago  the  clerk  of 
the  parish  used  to  go  round  with  a  basket 
collecting  Easter  eggs,  accompanied  by  boys 

This  custom  was  not  confined  to  Wales. 
In  Lancashire  and  Cheshire  the  custom  of 
Pace-egging  is  very  common.  "  Please,  good 
dame,  an  Aister  egg,"  is  heard  everywhere, 
but  money  is  now  frequently  given  in  place 
of  eggs.  At  Wilmslow  the  old  rhyme  used 
to  be — 

"  Please  Mr. 

Please  give  us  an  Easter  egg. 
If  you  do  not  give  us  one, 
Your  hen  shall  lay  an  addled  one, 
Your  cock  shall  lay  a  stone." 

The  boys  roll  the  eggs  like  bowls,  and  at 
Preston  Park  hundreds  of  people  may  be  seen 
engaged  in  rolling  eggs  down  the  grassy  slope. 

In  Northumberland,  when  a  man  asks  a 
woman  for  an  egg,  if  she  refuses,  he  takes 
off  her  boots  until  she  pays  a  penalty.  If 
a  man  refuses  to  give  a  woman  a  Pace-egg, 
she  snatches  away  his  cap,  and  will  not  restore 
it  until  he  pays  a  money  forfeit. 

Easter  eggs  were  in  mediaeval  times  blessed 

by  the  priest,  and  this  form  of  benediction 

was  authorised  by  Pope  Paul  V.  : — "  Bless, 

Lord,  we  beseech  Thee,  this  Thy  creature  of 


Pace  Eggs 

eggs,  that  it  may  become  a  wholesome  sus- 
tenance to  Thy  faithful  servants,  eating  it  in 
thankfulness  to  Thee,  on  account  of  the 
resurrection  of  our  Lord."  The  red  dye 
used  to  colour  the  egg  was  supposed  to 
allude  to  the  blood  of  the  redemption. 

In  connection  with  Pace-egging  there  is 
the  Pace-egg  or  Easter  play,  which  resembles 
in  its  main  features  the  Christmas  mumming 
play.  In  this  piece  of  ancient  drama  folk- 
lorists  see  a  relic  of  old  Norse  mythology — 
the  contest  of  Thor  and  Balder,  of  spring 
with  winter.  Beau  Slasher  is  the  champion 
of  winter,  and  his  iron  head,  steel  body,  and 
hands  and  feet  made  of  knuckle-bones,  are 
descriptive  of  the  frost-bound  earth.  These 
interpretations  seem  somewhat  fanciful. 

Biddenden,  a  quiet  and  retired  Kentish 
village,  presents  every  Easter  the  same 
spectacle  on  a  larger  scale  that  it  did  on 
Paschal  Sunday  about  the  time  of  the  Nor- 
man Conquest.  At  the  beginning  of  the 
twelfth  century  there  lived  in  Biddenden  two 
twin-sisters — Eliza  and  Mary  Chalkhurst — 
who  were  the  precursors  of  the  Siamese 
Twins.1  They  were  joined  together  in  the 

1  One  of  these  cakes  is  engraved  in  Ducarel's  ' '  Repertory  of 
the  Dioceses  of  Canterbury  and  Rochester,"  1782,  p.  137  ;  and 
another  pattern  is  given  in  Hone's  "  Every-Day  Book,"  vol.  ii. 
p.  443.  Hasted  regards  the  notion  that  the  sisters  were  joined 
together  as  a  vulgar  tradition  arising  from  the  figures  on  the 
cakes,  and  says  that  their  real  name  was  Preston. 

8l  F 

Old  English   Customs 

back  by  two  ligaments,  and  after  they  had 
passed  a  joint  existence  of  thirty-five  years 
one  of  them  died.  The  other  was  advised 
to  have  the  cords  of  unity  dissevered,  but 
she  refused,  saying,  "As  we  came  together, 
so  also  shall  we  go  together."  Six  hours 
afterwards  she  died.  By  their  will  they 
bequeathed  to  the  churchwardens  of  the 
parish  certain  lands,  of  which  the  rents  were 
to  be  devoted  to  supplying  the  poor  with 
doles  of  bread  and  cheese  every  Easter 
Sunday.  The  income  now  amounts  to  about 
^"40.  Visitors  from  neighbouring  places 
flock  to  the  village,  which  is  turned  into 
a  kind  of  fair,  after  the  services  in  the 
church  have  been  celebrated  by  the  vicar. 
There  are  two  distributions  under  the  will  of 
the  united  sisters.  In  the  first  place,  a  thou- 
sand hard-baked  rolls,  each  stamped  with 
a  representation  of  the  foundresses  of  the 
feast,  are  distributed  among  visitors  who 
may  be  in  want  of  refreshment.  They  are 
very  durable,  as  they  are  as  hard  as  wood, 
and  may  be  kept  as  curiosities  for  twenty 
years.  The  second  distribution  consists  of 
loaves  and  cheese,  and  is  limited  to  the 
poor  of  the  village.  One  of  the  church- 
wardens sits  at  a  little  window  of  the  work- 
house, and  to  each  of  the  poor  parishioners 
who  march  past  in  single  file  he  hands  a 
loaf  and  a  large  piece  of  cheese.  The 

Hare-  Scramble 

ceremony  finished,  many  of  the  visitors 
attempt  to  soften  their  cakes  in  Kentish 
ale,  and  pass  the  rest  of  the  day  in  old- 
world  conviviality.  Biddenden  then  resumes 
its  accustomed  quietude  until  the  memory  of 
the  twin-sisters  is  again  celebrated. 

The  "  Kentish  men "  still  eat  pudding- 
pies  at  Easter,  a  kind  of  flat  tart  with  a 
raised  crust  to  hold  a  small  quantity  of 
custard,  with  currants  sprinkled  over  its 
surface.  Bands  of  young  folk  used  to  roam 
the  countryside  provided  with  this  form  of 
refreshment  on  the  Monday  and  Tuesday  of 
Easter  Week.  {Kentish  Express.} 

Another  curious  observance  is  the  Halla- 
ton  Hare-scramble  and  Bottle-kicking,  which 
takes  place  annually  on  Easter  Monday. 
An  eye-witness  shall  describe  the  strange 
scene  : — "  The  origin  of  the  custom  associ- 
ated with  the  hare-pie  scramble  is  lost  in 
the  mists  of  antiquity,  and  may  be  a  relic 
of  mediaeval  times,  similar  to  the  old 
'  Whipping  Toms '  in  Leicester,  put  down 
in  I847.1  At  all  events,  at  a  remote  period 
a  piece  of  land  was  bequeathed  to  the  rector, 
conditionally  that  he  and  his  successors 

1  "Whipping  Toms"  was  a  rough  pastime  which  required 
the  aid  of  an  Act  of  Parliament  to  suppress  it.  After  a 
hockey  match  the  young  men  armed  themselves  with  long 
cart-whips,  and  proceeded  to  whip  any  one  passing  through 
the  precincts  of  Leicester  Castle,  unless  they  received  a  fee  from 
their  victim. 


Old  English   Customs 

provided  annually  two  hare-pies,  a  quantity 
of  ale,  and  two  dozen  penny  loaves,  to  be 
scrambled  for  on  each  succeeding  Easter 
Monday  at  the  rising  ground  called  Hare- 
pie  Bank,  about  a  quarter  of  a  mile  south 
of  the  village.  Of  course,  hares  being  out 
of  season  at  this  time  of  the  year,  pies  of 
mutton,  veal,  and  bacon  are  substituted.  A 
benevolent  rector  of  the  last  century  made 
an  effort  to  have  the  funds  applied  to  a 
better  use ;  but  the  village  wags  were  equal 
to  the  occasion,  and  raised  the  cry,  and 
chalked  on  his  walls  and  door,  as  well  as 
on  the  church,  *  No  pie,  no  parson,  and 
a  job  for  the  glazier.'  Other  subsequent 
efforts  alike  failed.  Easter  Monday  at  Hal- 
laton  is  the  great  carnival  of  the  year.  The 
two  benefit  societies  hold  their  anniversary 
at  the  *  Royal  Oak'  and  the  'Fox  Inn,1 
and  bands  accompany  the  processions  to  the 
parish  church,  where  the  '  club  sermon '  is 
preached.  After  dinner  at  the  inns,  a 
deputation  is  sent  to  the  rectory  for  the 
*  pies  and  beer,'  and  then  the  procession  is 
formed  in  the  following  order  : — 

"Two  men  abreast,  carrying  two  sacks 
with  the  pies  cut  up. 

"  Three  men  abreast,  carrying  aloft  a  bottle 

each  ;  two  of  these  are  filled  with  beer ;  they 

are  ordinary  field  wood  bottles,  but  without 

the  usual  mouth,  iron-hooped  all  over,  with 



a  hole  left  for  drinking  from ;  the  third  is 
a  dummy.  Occasionally  a  hare  is  carried, 
in  a  sitting  posture,  mounted  on  the  top  of 
a  pole. 

"  The  procession  increases  greatly  in  num- 
bers as  it  approaches  Hare-pie  Bank,  where  the 
pies  are  pitched  out  of  the  sack  and  scrambled 
for.  The  spectators  amuse  themselves  by 
throwing  the  contents  of  the  pies  at  each 
other.  Then  follows  the  well-known  '  Hal- 
laton  bottle-kicking.'  One  of  the  large 
bottles  containing  ale  is  thrown  into  the 
circular  hollow  on  the  mound,  and  the 
'  Medbourne  men/  or  other  villagers  who 
care  to  join  in  the  sport,  try  to  wrest  the 
bottle  from  the  Hallatonian  grasp.  A  fierce 
contest  then  ensues,  in  comparison  with 
which  a  football  scrimmage  is  mere  child's 
play.  It  is  useless  to  describe  the  battle 
that  ensues,  the  Hallatonians  striving  to  kick 
the  bottle  to  their  boundary-line  over  the 
brook  adjoining  the  village,  while  their  oppo- 
nents endeavour  to  convey  it  towards  the 
Medbourne  boundary.  The  victors  of  course 
claim  the  contents  of  the  bottle.  Then  '  the 
dummy '  is  fought  for  with  unabated  zest, 
for  the  Hallaton  people  boast  that  this  has 
never  been  wrested  from  them.  The  third 
bottle  is  taken  in  triumph  to  the  market- 
cross  and  its  contents  drunk  with  accustomed 
honours.  The  bottles  are  carefully  kept 


Old  English   Customs 

from  year  to  year,  and  those  now  in  use  have 
done  duty  for  more  than  thirty  years." 

The  author  of  the  "  Folk-lore  of  Leicester- 
shire "  in  an  able  paper 2  has  shown  a  connec- 
tion between  the  Christian  festival  of  Easter 
and  the  worship  or  sacrifice  of  hares.  Certain 
evidence  of  this  exists  here  in  England.  At 
Coleshill,  Warwickshire,  it  used  to  be  custo- 
mary for  the  young  men  of  the  parish  to  try 
to  catch  a  hare  before  ten  o'clock  on  Easter 
Monday  and  bring  it  to  the  parson ;  if  they 
were  successful,  the  parson  was  bound  to  give 
them  a  calf  s-head  and  a  hundred  of  eggs  for 
their  breakfast  and  a  groat  in  money. 

The  custom  of  hunting  the  hare  at  Leicester 
on  Easter  Monday  also  supports  the  theory, 
on  which  day  the  mayor  and  his  brethren  in 
their  scarlet  gowns,  attended  by  their  proper 
officers,  used  to  go  to  Black-Annis'  Bower 
Close  and  witness  the  diversion  of  hunting 
a  hare.  But  as  unfortunately  there  was  no 
hare  to  be  hunted,  the  sport  degenerated  into 
trailing  a  dead  cat  soaked  in  aniseed  water 
before  a  pack  of  hounds,  amidst  the  shouts 
of  the  spectators.  This  early  form  of  drag- 
hunting  has  been  long  ago  abandoned,  but 
an  annual  fair  on  the  Danes'  Hills  and  the 
Fosse  Road,  held  on  Easter  Monday,  has 

1  "County  Folk-lore:  Leicestershire  and  Rutland,"  by  C.  J. 
Billson,  1895. 

2  Folk-Lore,  December  1892. 



preserved  until  recent  years  the  traces  of  the 
Leicester  hare-hunt. 

The  writer,  Mr.  Billson,  brings  forward 
much  evidence  to  prove  that  "  the  hare  was 
originally  a  totem,  or  divine  animal,  among 
the  local  aborigines,  and  that  the  customs 
at  Leicester  and  Hallaton  are  relics  of  the 
religious  procession  and  annual  sacrifice  of 
the  god."  He  also  sees  in  the  "  bottle- 
kicking  "  a  relic  of  the  "  carrying  out 
Death,"  which  is  practised  in  some  form  in 
many  European  countries.  Something  is 
taken  to  represent  Death,  a  log  of  wood 
or  a  figure  of  straw;  this  is  carried  out  of 
the  village  and  destroyed  in  some  way. 
This  ceremony  usually  takes  place  in  the 
spring,  signifying  the  destruction  of  winter, 
the  symbol  of  Death.  Then  on  Easter 
Monday  at  Ashton-under-Lyne  there  is  the 
custom  of  "  Riding  the  Black  Lad;"  in 
which  case  the  effigy  of  a  black  boy,  after 
being  carried  round  the  town  and  shot  at, 
is  finally  burned.1  The  whole  subject  is 
full  of  interest,  and  we  refer  our  readers  to 
Mr.  Billson's  article,  as  we  are  now  con- 
cerned more  with  the  account  of  existing 
customs  rather  than  deductions  from  them. 

School  customs  are  always  full  of  interest. 
Many  have  died,  especially  at  Eton,  where  one 
would  have  imagined  they  would  be  scrupu- 

1  "Denham  Tracts,"  vol.  i.,  Folk-Lore  Society,  1891. 


Old  English   Customs 

lously  observed.  An  ancient  usage  prevails  at 
Christ's  Hospital,  London,  on  Easter  Tues- 
day, when  the  boys  visit  the  Mansion  House, 
and  receive  from  the  Lord  Mayor  the  custo- 
mary Easter  gifts.  Coins  fresh  from  the  mint 
are  given  to  the  boys :  to  each  Grecian  one 
guinea,  to  the  Junior  Grecians  half-a-guinea, 
to  the  monitors  half-a-crown,  while  the  rank 
and  file  receive  one  shilling.  Buns  are  given 
to  each  boy,  and  also  a  glass  of  lemonade  in- 
stead of  the  wine  which  they  received  formerly . 
In  a  Northern  grammar-school  the  boys  used 
to  attend  the  ceremony  of  the  installation  of 
the  Mayor,  and  were  regaled  with  punch  and 
buns.  Moreover,  they  were  obliged  to  sin 
against  grammar  as  well  as  temperance  prin- 
ciples, for  they  were  called  upon  to  drink 
the  toast — 

"  Prosperation  (sic) 
To  the  Corporation." 

The  toast  and  the  punch  and  the  custom  have 
been  discontinued  during  the  last  twenty 
years.  The  Christ's  Hospital  boys,  after  the 
ceremony,  accompany  the  Lord  Mayor  and 
the  Corporation  of  the  City  of  London  to 
Christ's  Church,  Newgate  Street,  where  the 
Spital  sermon  is  preached.  This  used  to  be 
called  the  Second  Spital  Sermon,  the  first 
being  preached  on  the  Monday;  but  this  has 
been  discontinued. 


School  Customs 

The  old  Eton  Montem  has  been  dead  some 
years,  and  was  last  celebrated  in  1 844.  It  was 
a  procession  of  the  scholars,  dressed  either 
in  military  or  fancy  costume,  to  the  mons, 
or  Salt-hill,  where  they  levied  a  tax,  called 
"  salt,"  on  all  comers.  Some  relics  of  this 
custom  are  preserved  in  the  observances  on  the 
famous  Fourth  of  June,  when  the  members  of 
the  Boats,  and  especially  the  coxswains,  wear 
extraordinary  dresses,  said  to  be  captains'  and 
midshipmen's  uniforms.  The  old  Montem  is 
supposed  to  be  connected  with  the  boy-bishop, 
and  originally  took  place  on  the  Feast  of  St. 

On  the  eve  of  the  Feast  of  St.  Mark 
(April  25th),  Yorkshire  folk  sit  and  watch 
in  the  porches  of  churches  from  1 1  P.M.  to 
i  A.M.  It  is  supposed  that  the  ghosts  of 
all  who  will  die  during  the  following  year 
pass  into  the  church.  People  sometimes  say 
in  case  of  the  illness  of  a  neighbour,  that  he 
will  not  recover  as  his  ghost  was  seen  last  St. 
Martin's  Eve;  and  sometimes  this  supersti- 
tion has  caused  death,  on  account  of  the  terror 
which  the  prophecy  inspired.  (Folk-Lore.} 

A  curious  custom  is  observed  at  Easter 
at  St.  Mary  Woolnoth,  Lombard  Street, 
London.  As  the  congregation  leave  the 
church,  an  Easter  egg,  coloured,  and  with 
the  words  "  My  Redeemer  "  written  on  it,  is 
presented  to  every  one. 

Old  English   Customs 

"  Heaving "  is,  we  believe,  quite  extinct. 
Many  men  little  past  middle  age  can  re- 
member how  on  Easter  Monday  the  men 
used  to  lift  the  women  whom  they  met 
thrice  above  their  heads,  and  the  women 
responded  on  Easter  Tuesday  and  lifted  the 
men.  In  spite  of  many  inquiries,  we  can  find 
no  evidence1  of  the  continued  existence  of 
this  custom,  which  prevailed  greatly  in  the 
North  of  England,  and  also  in  Wales,  War- 
wickshire, and  Shropshire. 

A  fortnight  after  Easter  comes  the  once 
famous  Hock-tide,  a  very  popular  festival 
in  former  days,  but  now  little  observed. 
Only  in  one  town  have  some  of  the  humours 
of  Hock-tide  been  preserved.  Hungerford, 
Berks,  still  maintains  its  ancient  and  curious 
customs,  which  not  even  the  new  District 
and  Parish  Councils  Act  has  been  able  to 
affect.  Hungerford  is  an  old-world  town, 
governed,  not  by  a  mayor  and  town-council, 
like  other  modern  mushroom  corporations, 
but  by  a  high  constable,  assisted  by  a  port- 
reeve, bailiff,  tything  or  tutti  men,  hayward, 
&c.  Moreover,  John  of  Gaunt  was  the  great 
patron  of  the  town,  and  gave  it  a  wonderful 
horn,  upon  the  safe  preservation  of  which  the 

1  As  late  as  the  year  1883  a  relic  of  this  custom  was  observed 
at  Norton,  Cheshire,  where  a  man  entered  a  house  to  "lift" 
the  wife  of  the  owner.  The  latter  objected,  and  summoned 
the  observer  of  old  customs,  who  had  to  pay  the  costs  of  the 


Hock-tide  in  Hungerford 

rights  of  the  town  depend.  The  proceedings 
of  Hock-tide  commence  with  the  watercress 
supper  at  the  hotel  of  the  "  John  o'  Gaunt," 
consisting  of  black  broth,  welsh  rabbit,  mac- 
caroni,  and  salad,  accompanied  by  bowls 
of  punch.  During  the  meal  the  affairs  of 
the  township  are  discussed.  On  Tuesday, 
"  Hockney  Day,"  the  proceedings  com- 
mence by  the  town-crier  blowing  from  the 
balcony  of  the  town-hall  the  ancient  horn, 
the  gift  of  John  of  Gaunt.  The  Hock-tide 
Court  assemble,  the  jury  is  sworn,  the  names 
of  the  free  suitors  are  called  over  by  the 
town-clerk,  and  the  commoners  summoned 
to  "  save  their  commons "  for  the  ensuing 
year.  Various  officers  are  elected,  including 
the  water-bailiff,  hall-keeper,  hayward,  ale- 
tasters,  &c.  The  tything  or  tutti1  men 
visit  the  residence  of  the  high  constable,  and 
are  invested  with  the  emblems  of  office. 
Their  duties  consist  of  calling  upon  the 
commoners,  and  demanding  from  the  men 
a  coin,  and  from  the  women  a  kiss,  and  pre- 
senting every  person  in  the  house  with 
an  orange.  Kissing  evidently  does  not  al- 
ways go  by  favour,  especially  at  Hunger- 
ford  during  Hock-tide.  The  collection  of 
pennies  is  a  simple  matter,  and  a  large 
majority  of  the  ladies  usually  submit  to  the 

1  So  called  from  their  poles,  wreathed  with  tutties  or  posies 
of  flowers. 


Old  English   Customs 

ancient  usage  of  the  old  town ;  but  many 
hide  themselves  until  all  danger  of  a  visit 
from  the  tutti  men  is  passed,  and  bolts  and 
bars  often  check  the  advances  of  the  favoured 
official.  A  luncheon  is  given  by  the  high 
constable  at  the  "Three  Swans/'  during  the 
progress  of  which  the  boys  and  girls  of  the 
town  scramble  for  money  and  oranges  thrown 
to  them  from  the  windows.  In  addition  to 
these  remarkable  survivals  of  old  customs 
there  is  the  "  Sandin  Fee  Court,"  when  the 
list  of  "  Rescients  "  is  read,  and  regulations 
made  for  the  feeding  of  cattle  on  the  marsh. 
After  another  dinner  the  court  leet  is  held, 
and  in  the  evening  the  constable's  banquet, 
when  his  worship  sits  in  a  beautiful  old 
carved  ebony  chair  beneath  the  shade  of  the 
famous  John  o'  Gaunt's  horn,  which  is  sus- 
pended between  the  two  tutti  poles.  The 
last  toast  of  the  evening  is  "  To  the  memory 
of  John  o'  Gaunt,"  which  is  drunk  in  solemn 
silence  as  the  clock  strikes  the  hour  of 
midnight.  The  Hock-tide  proceedings  are 
brought  to  a  close  by  the  constable,  feofers, 
and  other  officers  attending  divine  service  in 
the  parish  church.  The  municipal  customs 
of  Hungerford  are  a  curious  and  interesting 
survival,  and  we  hope  that  they  may  long 
retain  their  peculiar  usages. 

The  duties   of  the  tything  or  tutti  men 
remind    one    of   the    ancient    "  gatherings " 

April  Fool's  Day 

once  universally  practised  at  Hock-tide,  and 
supposed  to  be  held  in  memory  of  the  vic- 
tory of  our  Saxon  forefathers  over  the  Danes. 
The  custom  was  for  the  men  to  traverse  the 
streets  with  ropes,  and  stop  and  bind  all 
the  women  they  met,  releasing  them  on  pay- 
ment of  a  small  ransom.  On  the  Tuesday  in 
Hock-tide  the  women  retaliated  and  bound 
the  men ;  but  this  custom  is  now  quite 

The  spirit  of  mischief  inherent  in  human 
nature  prevents  youths  and  maidens  from 
forgetting  the  due  observance  of  All  Fools1 
Day  (April  1st).  Why  people  should  be 
sent  on  foolish  errands  and  be  made  the 
subjects  of  harmless  jokes  on  this  day,  it  is 
difficult  to  conjecture.  Nor  is  the  custom 
confined  to  one  country.  In  France  the  vic- 
tim is  called  un  poisson  d'Avril  (an  April 
fish),  and  in  Scotland  a  gowk  or  cuckoo; 
while  in  India  the  same  practice  prevails. 
It  is  supposed  to  be  connected  with  the 
popular  celebration  of  the  advent  of  the 
vernal  equinox,  though  some  writers  have 
suggested  that  poisson  is  a  corruption  of 
Passion,  and  that  the  mock  trial  of  our 
Saviour  is  in  some  way  referred  to.  Pro- 
bably it  is  a  remnant  of  the  old  New  Year's 
Day  festivities,  which  commenced  on  March 
25th  and  ended  on  April  ist.  To  decide 

1  Cf.  "Old  English  Sports,"  by  P.  H.  Ditchfield,  p.  42. 


Old  English   Customs 

the  vexed  question  of  the  origin  of  All 
Fools'  Day  is  almost  as  vain  as  to  hunt  the 
gowk,  which,  according  to  the  old  rhyme, 
was  the  fruitless  sport  assigned  to  foolish 
folk : — 

"  On  the  first  day  of  April 
Hunt  the  gowk  another  mile."  * 

Still  the  ingenuity  of  mankind  is  taxed  on 
this  day  to  make  April  fools  until  the  hour 
of  twelve  strikes,  when  the  sport  is  no  longer 
legitimate.  It  were  well  if  fools  and  folly 
could  be  confined  to  this  brief  period  of 

1  Dr.  Giuseppe  Pitri  has  published  a  monograph  on  this  sub- 
ject entitled  //  Pesce  cTAprile  (1891),  which  may  well  attract 
the  attention  of  the  curious.  The  learned  author  states  that 
"  there  is  scarcely  any  popular  tradition  of  which  the  origin  is 
so  obscure." 



May  Day  customs — Magdalen  College,  Oxford 
—  Sweeps  at  Oxford  and  Cheltenham — Bampton 
customs — Charlton,  Clifton,  and  Witney,  Oxon — 
Edlesborough,  Bucks — Hawick  customs — Saltash, 
Cornwall — Minehead  and  Lancashire,  Leicester- 
shire, Cornwall,  Gloucestershire,  Northants  cus- 
toms—  Old  Maypole  still  standing — Gawthorpe, 
Yorks — St.  Mary  Cray. 

Jr  ROM  ancient  times  May  Day  has  ever 
been  the  great  rural  festival,  when  the  May- 
pole was  erected  on  every  village  green  and 
spring  was  ushered  in  with  all  the  merriness 
of  simple  rustic  revelry.  In  recent  times  we 
have  witnessed  a  revival  of  the  crowning  of 
May  Queens  and  of  children  dancing  around 
Maypoles.  The  old  ceremonies  are  closely 
imitated,  but  they  lack  the  spontaneity  of  the 
ancient  rural  festivals,  and  we  are  concerned 
now  with  the  actual  survivals  of  old  customs, 
rather  than  any  modern  imitations  of  the 
same.  In  many  old-world  villages  and  towns 
we  find  still  the  old  May  Day  ceremonies 
lingering  on,  and  some  of  these  we  will  visit, 
and  describe  how  the  rustics  still  continue  to 
"  usher  in  the  May." 

At  Oxford  the  custom  of  singing  the  May  /  * 


Old  English   Customs 

Morning  Hymn  on  the  summit  of  the  tower 
of  Magdalen  College  by  the  choristers  is 
regularly  observed. 

This  is  said  to  have  taken  the  place  of 
a  requiem  mass  which  in  pre-Reformation 
days  was  performed  on  the  same  spot  for 
the*  repose  of  the  soul  of  Henry  VII.  The 
following  are  the  words  of  the  hymn  :— 

"  Te  Deum  Patrem  colimus, 
Te  laudibus  prosequimur, 
Qui  corpus  cibo  reficis 
Coelesti  mentem  gratia. 

Te  adoramus,  O  Jesu  ! 
Te,  Fill  unigenite ! 
Tu,  qui  non  dedignatus  es 
Subire  claustra  Virginis. 

Actus  in  crucem  factus  es, 
Irato  Deo  victima ; 
Per  te,  Salvator  unice, 
Vitse  spes  nobis  rediit. 

Tibi,  seterne  Spiritus, 
Cujus  afflatu  peperit 
Infantem  Deum  Maria, 
Sternum  benedicimus. 

Triune  Deus,  hominum 
Salutis  Auctor  optime, 
Immensum  hoc  mysterium 
Ovanti  lingua  canimus." 

About  150  persons  are  usually  present,  and 
as  the  hour  of  five  strikes  the  choir  com- 

May  Day   Customs 

mence  to  sing  the  hymn.  In  the  street  and 
on  the  bridge  a  large  crowd  of  spectators 
assemble,  many  of  whom  blow  horns  and 
other  hideous-sounding  instruments,  and  at 
the  conclusion  of  the  hymn  they  disperse  for 
the  accustomed  country-walk. 

In  the  same  city  on  May  Day  garlands  are 
borne  along  the  streets,  and  a  "  Jack-in-the- 
Green,"  with  the  accompaniment  of  about  a 
dozen  fantastically  dressed  men  and  women, 
is  often  seen.  This  procession  is  formed  by 
the  Sweeps,  and  consists  of  the  following 
personages : — 

1.  Jack-in-the-Green. 

2.  A  "Lord"    and   "Lady,"    who    are 

dressed  in  white  and  decorated 
with  ribbons.  The  "Lady"  carries 
a  ladle,  and  the  "  Lord  "  a  frying- 

3.  A  "  Fool,"  dressed  as  fantastically  as 

possible,  who  carries  a  bladder  on 
a  string,  wherewith  to  belabour  the 

4.  A  fiddler. 

5.  Two  or  three  men  who  carry  money- 


6.  A  man  with  shovel  and  poker,  which 

he  uses  as  musical  instruments. 

The  whole  party,  except  the  "  Lady,"  have 
their  faces  blackened,  and  are   decked  with 
97  G 

Old  English   Customs 

ribbons  and  flowers.     They  sing  the  follow- 
ing song : — 

"  Please  to  remember  the  chimney-sweeps  ; 
Please,  kind  sir,  don't  pass  us  by ; 
We're  old  sweeps  and  want  a  living, 
Spare  us  a  copper  as  in  olden  time." 

The  chimney-sweeps  of  Cheltenham  also 
hold  high  revels  on  May  Day.  The  dancers 
have  their  faces  blacked,  and  their  band  con- 
sists of  a  fiddle  and  tin-whistle.  The  centre 
of  the  group  is  formed  by  a  large  bush,  or 
hollow  cone  bedecked  with  leaves,  out  of 
which  peers  the  face  of  Jack-i'-the-Green. 
The  dresses  of  the  attendants  are  red,  blue, 
and  yellow,  and  they  dance  around  the  bush. 
The  leader  of  the  party  is  the  clown,  who 
wears  a  tall  hat  with  a  flapping  crown,  and  a 
fantastical  dress,  and  "fancies  himself"  greatly. 
There  is  also  a  man  with  a  fool's  cap,  and 
black  figures  fastened  on  his  white  pinafore, 
and  the  representation  of  a  gridiron.  Two 
boys  complete  the  group,  one  wearing  a  girl's 
hat  adorned  with  flowers.  They  levy  contri- 
butions by  holding  out  iron  ladles  or  spoons, 
and  strike  the  bystanders  with  bladders  fas- 
tened to  a  stick.  Their  performance  consists 
in  dancing  and  roaring.  The  Cambridge 
sweeps  evidently  used  to  have  a  similar  festi- 
val, as  the  children  still  go  round  with  a  doll, 
hung  in  the  midst  of  a  hoop  wreathed  with 
flowers,  singing  the  ditty — 

May  Day   Customs 

"  The  first  of  May  is  garland  day, 
And  chimney-sweepers'  dancing  day ; 
Curl  your  locks  as  I  do  mine, 
One  before  and  one  behind." 

At  Bampton,  Oxon,  up  to  within  forty  or 
fifty  years  ago,  a  party  of  children  used  to 
go  round  the  town  on  May  Day,  dressed  in 
white,  with  red,  white,  and  blue  ribbons 
(these  are  now  the  colours  of  the  Club). 
A  boy,  called  the  "  Lord,"  carried  a  stick 
dressed  with  ribbons  and  flowers,  which  was 
called  a  "  sword,"  and  a  collecting-box  for 
pence.  Two  girls,  known  as  the  "  Lady  " 
and  her  "  Maid,"  carried  on  a  stick  between 
them  the  "garland,"  which  was  made  of 
two  hoops  crossed,  and  covered  with  moss, 
flowers,  and  ribbons.  The  "  Lady "  also 
carried  a  "  mace,"  a  square  piece  of  board 
mounted  on  a  short  staff,  on  the  top  of 
which  were  sweet-smelling  herbs  under  a 
muslin  cover,  decorated  with  red,  white,  and 
blue  ribbons  and  rosettes.  The  "  Lord  "  and 
"Lady"  were  accompanied  by  a  "Jack-in- 
the-Green."  From  time  to  time  the  "Lady" 
sang  the  following  words  : — 

"  Ladies  and  gentlemen, 
I  wish  you  a  happy  May ; 
Please  smell  my  mace 
And  kiss  my  face, 
And  then  we'll  show  our  garland." 


Old  English   Customs 

After  the  words  "  kiss  my  face,"  it  was 
the  "  Lord's  "  duty  to  kiss  the  "  Lady,"  and 
then  to  hand  round  his  money-box.  This 
custom  has  been  almost  discontinued  on 
May  Day  for  many  years  past,  but  is  kept 
up,  without  the  Jack-in-the-Green,  at  the 
Club  Feast  on  Whit-Monday. 

At  Charlton-on-Otmoor,  Oxon,  on  May 
morning  a  procession  used  to  start  from  the 
vicarage,  headed  by  two  men  carrying  a  large 
garland  of  flowers  on  a  stick.  With  them 
went  six  morris-dancers,  a  fool  or  "  Squire," 
who  carried  a  bladder  and  a  money-box,  and 
a  man  who  played  the  pipe  and  tabour.  At 
the  end  of  the  day,  after  the  dancing  was 
over,  the  garland  was  taken  to  the  church, 
and  hung  up  on  the  rood-screen  in  place  of 
_the  rood,  where  it  was  left  till  the  next  May 
Day,  when  it  was  taken  down  and  redressed. 
The  procession  and  dancing  has  been  given 
up  since  1857,  but  the  garland  is  still  dressed 
every  May  Day,  and  put  upon  the  screen. 

At  Witney  they  still  have  a  Jack-in-the- 
Green,  a  man  enclosed  in  a  bower  made  in 
the  shape  of  a  pyramid  about  ten  feet  high. 
He  is  accompanied  by  various  attendants,  one 
bearing  a  drum  or  a  triangle,  and  another  a 
large  silver  ladle  for  the  reception  of  the 
monies  of  the  spectators. 

At  Clifton,  near  Deddington,  Oxon,  a 
number  of  boys  and  girls  go  round  with  a 

May  Day   Customs 

garland,  carried  between  two  of  them  on  a 
stick,  and  sing  the  following  song  : — 

"  Good  morning,  ladies  and  gentlemen ; 

I  wish  you  a  happy  day ; 
I'm  come  to  show  my  garland, 
Because  it's  the  First  of  May. 

A  bunch  of  May  I  have  brought  you, 

And  at  your  door  it  stands ; 
It  is  but  a  spray,  but  it's  well  spread  about, 

'Tis  the  work  of  our  God's  hands.1 

And  now  I've  sung  my  little  short  song, 

No  longer  can  I  stay ; 
God  bless  you  all,  both  great  and  small, 

And  grant  you  a  very  happy  May." 

On  May  Day,  at  Spelsbury,  the  school 
children  go  in  procession,  with  a  garland 
carried  on  a  stick  between  two  of  them. 
They  choose  a  "  Lord  "  and  a  "  Lady,"  who 
are  dressed  in  white,  with  coloured  ribbons ; 
the  rest  carry  "  maces"—  z>.,  sticks  dressed 
in  ribbons  and  flowers.  The  following  song 
is  sung : — 

"  Hail !  all  hail !  the  merry  month  of  May  ! 
I'm  come  to  show  my  garland, 
Because  it's  the  First  of  May. 

1  At  Warborough,  Oxon,  they  sing  this  verse  : — 
"  The  streets  are  very  dirty, 
My  shoes  are  very  thin  ; 
But  I've  got  a  little  pocket 
To  put  my  money  in." 

Old  English   Customs 

Hail !  all  hail !  away  to  the  woods  away, 
And  to  the  fields  and  lanes  so  gay. 
Hail !  all  hail ! " 

At  the  end  of  the  song,  the  "  Lord  "  gene- 
rally kisses  the  "Lady,"  and  contributions  in 
money  are  asked  of  the  bystanders. 

The  children  at  Wheatley,  Oxon,  sing  a 
very  sweet  little  May  Day  song,  which  is 
worthy  of  record  : — 

"  Spring  is  coming,  spring  is  coming ; 

Birdies,  build  your  nest ; 
Weave  together  straw  and  feather, 
Doing  each  your  best. 

Spring  is  coming,  spring  is  coming, 

Flowers  are  coming  too ; 
Pansies,  lilies,  daffodilies, 

Now  are  coming  through. 

Spring  is  coming,  spring  is  coming, 

All  around  is  fair ; 
Shimmer  and  quiver  on  the  river, 

Joy  is  everywhere. 

We  wish  you  a  happy  May." 

At  Edlesborough,  Bucks,  the  girls  dress 
up  a  doll,  sometimes  with  a  small  doll  in  its 
lap,  with  many  ribbons  and  flowers,  and  carry 
it  about  in  a  small  chair.  This  is  evidently 
intended  to  represent  the  Virgin  and  Child. 
The  church  is  dedicated  to  St.  Mary  the 
Virgin ;  possibly  there  may  be  some  connec- 

May   Day   Customs 

tion  between  the  custom  and  the  patron  saint 
of  the  parish.  A  similar  custom,  almost 
defunct,  prevails  at  Brightwalton,  Berks, 
where  the  Virgin  and  Child,  in  the  guise  of 
the  Queen  of  the  May,  with  a  doll  in  a 
basjcet,  is  borne  round  the  parish. 

A  rude  custom  prevails  at  Minehead  on 
May  Day.  The  men  fashion  a  cardboard 
ship,  about  ten  feet  long,  with  sails  trimmed 
with  flags  and  ribbons.  This  is  carried  on  a 
man's  shoulders,  his  head  coming  through  a 
hole  in  the  deck  of  the  ship.  To  the  end  of 
the  ship  is  fastened  a  cow's  tail.  The  men 
then  run  about  and  frighten  the  people  into 
giving  them  money,  threatening  to  beat  them 
with  the  cow's  tail.  The  origin  of  this  cus- 
tom is  said  to  date  from  the  beginning  of  the 
eighteenth  century,  when  a  ship  was  sunk  ofF 
Dunster,  and  all  hands  lost.  Only  a  cow 
was  found,  which  provided  a  tail  wherewith 
to  grace  the  ceremony  of  the  "Hobby  Ship." 

In  Hawick  a  few  of  the  young  people  still 
go  a-Maying,  and  rub  their  faces  in  the  morn- 
ing dew,  whereby  they  secure  twelve  months 
of  rosy  cheeks ;  but  year  by  year  the  number 
of  the  devotees  of  "  May  Morning  "  are  be- 
coming less,  and  probably  the  next  generation 
will  know  little  of  the  secrets  of  how  rosy 
cheeks  were  sought  for  on  early  May  mornings, 
and  perhaps  seek  less  simple  and  wholesome 
ways  for  producing  the  much-desired  bloom. 

Old  English   Customs 

Mrs.  Pepys  knew  the  virtues  of  May-dew, 
as  we  gather  from  her  husband's  diary  :— 
"My  wife  away  to  Woolwich  in  order  to  a 
little  ayre,  and  to  lie  there  to-night,  and 
so  to  gather  May-dew  to-morrow  morning, 
which  Mrs.  Turner  hath  taught  her  is  the 
only  thing  in  the  world  to  wash  her  face 

A  very  curious  May  Day  custom  is  ob- 
served at  Saltash,  Cornwall,  on  the  first  three 
days  of  May.  The  children  gather  all  the 
old  kettles,  scuttles,  tea-trays,  pails,  and  other 
discarded  vessels,  and  link  them  with  cords. 
In  the  evenings  all  these  vessels  are  dragged  in 
noisy  trail,  with  much  vocal  shouting,  in  and 
out  of  all  the  nooks  and  corners  of  the  parish. 
The  sanction  of  long-established  custom 
secures  the  tolerance  of  the  town  authori- 
ties and  the  public;  but  the  origin  of  the 
custom  is  shrouded  in  mystery.  Probably  it 
is  a  survival  of  a  heathen  rite,  intended  to 
scare  away  demons  from  the  homes  and  pro- 
perties of  the  inhabitants.  No  alms  are 
asked,  and  no  reason  given  for  the  three 
evenings'  noisy  proceedings ;  and  there  is  an 
air  of  mystery  about  the  ceremony  well 
according  with  the  theory  of  a  demon-driv- 
ing rite.  Garlands  are  also  carried  round 
the  parish  by  the  children  on  May  Morning. 

The  eve  of  May  Day  at  Oldham  is  known 
as  Mischief  Night,  when  it  was  the  custom 

May  Day   Customs 

for  the  people  to  play  all  manner  of  tricks  on 
their  neighbours.  My  informant  remembers 
to  have  seen  a  thatched  house  in  a  village 
near  Oldham  adorned  with  mops,  rakes, 
brushes,  on  the  tops  of  which  were  stuck 
mugs,  tubs,  pails,  or  anything  portable  up 
to  a  five-barred  gate.  Sometimes  companies 
would  stay  up  all  night  playing  and  singing 
in  order  to  welcome  the  incoming  May. 

In  most  of  the  Lancashire  towns  the 
carters  decorate  their  horses  with  ribbons, 
rosettes,  and  flowers.  In  Bolton  prizes  are 
given  for  the  finest  team  of  horses,  and  the 
most  tastefully  adorned,  and  the  same  cus- 
tom prevails  in  other  towns.  Lancashire 
folk  dearly  love  a  procession.  At  the  school 
feasts,  the  children,  dressed  in  their  best 
finery,  always  march  round  the  parish.  On 
May  Day  the  gaily-decked  horses  are  paraded 
through  the  principal  streets,  with  bands  of 
music,  and  the  Mayor  and  Corporation 
usually  attend  the  function,  which  has  many 
practical  uses. 

In  Cornwall,  once  the  home  of  the  Mayers, 
the  Maypole  no  longer  exists.  At  High 
Town,  St.  Mary's,  Scilly,  one  is  erected  every 
year,  and  the  girls  dance  round  it  decked 
with  garlands  and  wreaths.  May  Day  is 
ushered  in  at  Penzance  by  the  discordant 
blowing  of  large  tin  horns.  At  daybreak 
the  boys  assemble  and  perambulate  the  town 

Old  English   Customs 

blowing  their  horns  and  collecting  money  for 
a  feast. 

In  Polperro  the  people  go  into  the  country 
and  gather  the  whitethorn  blossoms  or  narrow- 
leaved  elm.  Later  on  the  boys  sally  forth  with 
buckets  and  other  vessels  full  of  water,  and 
"  dip  "  all  who  do  not  wear  "  the  May." 
They  sing  as  their  warrant  for  their  conduct — 

"  The  first  of  May 
Is  Dipping  Day." 

At  Padstow  the  day  is  called  Hobby- 
Horse  Day.  A  hobby-horse  is  carried  through 
the  streets  to  Traitor's  Pool,  where  it  is 
made  to  drink.  The  head  is  dipped  in  the 
water  and  the  spectators  are  sprinkled.  The 
procession  returns  home,  singing  a  song  to 
commemorate  the  tradition  that  the  French, 
having  landed  in  the  bay,  mistook  a  party  of 
mummers  in  red  cloaks  for  soldiers,  hastily 
fled  to  their  boats  and  sailed  away. 

In  Leicestershire  the  observance  of  May 
Day  is  still  kept  up,  and  girls  come  round 
bearing  a  small  Maypole  tastefully  decorated 
with  flowers.  The  Gloucestershire  children 
sing  as  follows  : — 

"  Round  the  Maypole,  trit,  trit,  trot ! 
See  what  a  garland  we  have  got ; 
Fine  and  gay, 
Trip  away, 

Happy  is  our  new  May  Day." 
1 06 

May  Day   Customs 

At  Watford,  Herts,  the  girls  go  about 
the  streets,  dressed  in  white,  with  gay  ribbons 
and  sashes  of  various  colours.  They  carry  a 
"garland,"  two  hoops,  decked  with  flowers. 
Their  song  begins  as  follows  : — 

"  Here  begins  the  merry  month  of  May, 

The  bright  time  of  the  year, 
When  Christ  our  Saviour  died  for  us, 
Who  loved  us  so  dear. 

So  dear,  so  dear,  Christ  loved  us, 

And  all  our  sins  to  save ; 
We'd  better  leave  off  our  wickedness 

And  turn  to  the  Lord  again. 

My  song  is  done,  I  must  be  gone, 

No  longer  can  I  stay ; 
God  bless  you  all,  both  great  and  small, 

I  wish  you  a  merry  month  of  May." 

Girls  with  garlands  are  seen  at  Great  Grans- 
den,  Huntingdonshire,  but  the  old  May  Lord 
and  May  Lady  who  once  flourished  here  are 
now  dead. 

At  Duxford,  Cambridgeshire,  the  children 
bring  their  garlands  and  dolls,  and  sing  : — 

"  First  and  second  and  third  of  May 
Are  chimney-sweepers'  dancing  days ; 
Ladies  and  gentlemen,  I  wish  you  a  happy  May, 
I've  come  to  show  my  garlands 
Because  it  is  May  Day." 

A    perfect    garland    of  song  adorns  this 

Old  English   Customs 

bright  rural  festival,  and  a  volume  of  the 
verses  sung  on  May  Day  might  be  written. 
We  will  conclude  our  May  Day  songs  with 
the  words  of  Mayers  in  Northamptonshire, 
at  Denton  and  Chaldecote  : — 

"  Here  come  up  poor  players  all,  and  thus  do  we  begin 
To  lead  our  lives  of  righteousness,  for  fear  we  die  in  sin. 
To  die  in  sin  is  dreadful,  to  go  where  sinners  mourn, 
'Twould  have  been  better  for  our  souls  if  we  had 

ne'er  been  born. 
Good  morning,  lords  and  ladies !  it  is  the  First  of 


I  hope  you'll  view  the  garland,  for  it  looks  so  very  gay. 
The  cuckoo  sings  in  April,  the  cuckoo  sings  in  May, 
The  cuckoo  sings  in  June,  in  July  it  flies  away. 
Now  take  a  Bible  in  your  hand  and  read  a  chapter 

And  when  the  day  of  judgment  comes,  the  Lord 

will  think  of  you." 

The  hand  of  the  Puritans  is  evident  in 
this  curious  medley,  who  altered  the  old 
May  songs  and  took  away  from  them  much 
of  their  light-heartedness.  But,  as  we  have 
already  seen,  many  of  the  old  merry  verses 
survived,  and  are  still  repeated  in  the  old 
villages  of  England. 

The  original  Maypole  still  stands  in  many 
villages.  At  Orwell,  near  Cambridge,  it  stood 
till,  in  1 869,  it  was  destroyed  by  a  storm,  and 
has  not  since  been  replaced.  There  is  a  fine 
one  at  Wellow,  near  Ollerton,  Northamp- 

May  Day   Customs 

tonshire;  at  Redmire,  near  Bolton  Castle, 
Yorkshire ;  at  Hemswell,  near  Gainsborough, 
Lincolnshire ;  at  Welford,  Gloucestershire  ; 
at  Donnington,  Shropshire ;  and  at  Preston 
Brockhurst,  in  the  same  county.  The  May- 
pole may  still  be  seen  at  Gawthorpe,  York- 
shire, where  the  ancient  customs  are  kept  up, 
although  marred  by  the  invasion  of  factories 
and  the  absence  of  all  the  sylvan  beauties 
of  the  country.  Long  streets  of  hideous 
cottages  and  mill  chimneys  belching  forth 
their  clouds  of  smoke  are  not  in  keeping 
with  the  celebration  of  the  Arcadia  of  the 
First  of  May.  But  still  the  May  Queen 
rides  on  horseback  surrounded  by  her  sponsors, 
electors,  and  attendants,  and  the  Maypole 
is  reared  and  danced  around  as  in  the  good 
old  days. 

At  Polebrooke,  Oundle,  the  children  elect 
a  May  Queen  and  parade  the  village,  the 
May  Queen  at  the  head  of  the  procession, 
attended  by  two  girls  carrying  dressed  dolls 
placed  in  a  bower  of  green  and  flowers. 
They  sing  the  following  words  : — 

"  May  is  come,  we  spy  the  traces 
Of  her  fingers  in  the  flowers, 
Boys  and  girls  with  smiling  faces 

Come  and  seek  her  through  the  bowers. 
Catch  young  May, 
Make  her  stay, 

Dance  around  her  bright  and  gay." 

Old  English   Customs 

One  of  the  most  successful  revivals  of  the 
May  Day  festivities  takes  place  at  St.  Mary 
Cray,  Kent.  There  the  old  festival  rites  are 
celebrated  amid  beautiful  surroundings,  and 
thousands  assemble  to  watch  Maypole  dances 
and  attend  the  coronation  of  the  fair  May 
Queen.  There  have  been  so  many  revivals 
of  the  old  May  Day  customs,  that  it  is  not 
vain  to  hope  that  ere  long  each  village  may 
again  have  its  Maypole  and  its  May  Queen, 
and  the  hearts  of  the  rustic  youths  and 
maidens  be  rejoiced  by  the  quaint  observances 
of  this  old-time  festival. 



Helston  Furry  dance — Rogation-tide  and  Ganging 
Week — Beating  the  bounds  at  Malborough,  Lich- 
Jield,  Oxford,  Leicester,  and  London — Royal  Oak 
Day —  Wilts  custom — Selkirk  Common -Riding 
— "  Gravely  " — Singing  custom  at  Durham. 

ON  May  8th,  at  Helston,  Cornwall,  there 
remains  a  most  curious  and  interesting  sur- 
vival of  an  ancient  Celtic  custom,  which  is 
known  as  the  Furry  Dance.  From  time 
immemorial  this  festival  has  been  held,  and 
there  seems  no  sign  of  decaying  vitality. 
The  origin  of  the  festival  is  disputed.  Some 
attribute  it  to  the  vision  of  a  fiery  dragon 
over  Helston  in  remote  ages,  when  the  in- 
habitants naturally  were  grievously  alarmed  ; 
and  the  Furry  dance  was  subsequently  in- 
stituted, with  the  accompaniment  of  flowers 
and  branches,  as  a  token  of  rejoicing  for  the 
disappearance  of  the  monster.  Others  say  it 
is  a  festival  in  honour  of  the  Roman  goddess 
Flora;  whilst  still  others  claim  that  it  is 
connected  with  the  Feast  of  St.  Michael,  in 
memory  of  the  cessation  of  a  great  plague 
which  raged  in  the  seventh  century, — St. 
Michael  being  the  patron  saint  of  Helston. 

Old  English   Customs 

A  legend  narrates  that  he  once  encountered 
the  Devil,  who  was  playing  with  a  block  of 
granite  known  as  Hell's  Stone,  having  been 
originally  placed  at  the  mouth  of  the  infernal 
regions.  The  Devil  was  worsted  in  the  com- 
bat, and  took  to  flight,  dropping  the  stone 
into  the  yard  of  the  Angel  Inn,  where  it 
remained  until  the  end  of  the  last  century 
as  a  witness  of  the  truth  of  the  story. 
This  stone  naturally  gave  the  name  to  the 

On  May  8th,  a  procession  of  thirty  or 
forty  couples  is  formed  at  the  Market-house, 
and,  preceded  by  a  band,  goes  through  the 
town  dancing  a  quaint  country-dance  to  the 
Celtic  Furry  tune.  The  parties  are  composed 
of  gentlemen  and  ladies  of  the  county  families 
in  the  neighbourhood,  and  the  peculiarity  of 
the  ceremony  is  that  they  dance  in  and  out 
of  all  the  houses,  going  in  at  the  front  door 
and  out  at  the  back,  and  returning  vice  versa. 
It  is  a  strange  processional  dance,  in  no  way 
resembling  the  old  Maypole  circular  dance 
of  the  Merrie  England  of  our  forefathers. 
The  words  of  the  old  Furry  song,  set  to  a 
quaint  and  original  melody,  are  curious,  and 
run  as  follows  : — 

"  Robin  Hood  and  Little  John, 

They  both  are  gone  to  the  fair,  O ; 
And  we  to  the  merry  greenwood, 
To  see  what  they  do  there,  O. 

Helston   Furry  Dance 

And  for  to  chase,  O, 
To  chase  the  buck  and  doe, 
With  Hal-an-tow, 
Jolly  rumble,  O. 

(  Chorus} — 

And  we  were  up  as  soon  as  any  day,  O, 
And  for  to  fetch  the  summer  home, 

The  summer  and  the  May,  O ; 

For  the  summer  is  a  come,  O, 
And  winter  is  a  go,  O. 

Where  are  those  Spaniards 

That  made  so  great  a  boast,  O  ? 
They  shall  eat  the  grey  goose  feather, 
And  we  will  eat  the  roast,  O. 

And  every  land,  O, 
The  land  that  ere  we  go, 
With  Hal-an-tow, 
Jolly  rumble,  O. 
(Chorus  as  before.") 

As  for  St.  George,  O, 

St.  George  he  was  a  knight,  O ; 
Of  all  the  kings  in  Christendom, 
King  George  is  the  right,  O. 

In  every  land,  O, 
The  land  that  ere  we  go, 
With  Hal-an-tow, 
Jolly  rumble,  O. 

(Chorus) — 

God  bless  Aunt  Mary  Moses, 

With  all  her  power  and  might,  O ; 
And  send  us  peace  in  Merry  England 
Both  day  and  night,  O." 

113  H 

Old  English   Customs 

The  figure  of  the  dance  is  simple.  To 
the  first  half  of  the  tune  the  couples  dance 
hand  in  hand  ;  at  the  second  the  first  gentle- 
man turns  the  second  lady,  and  the  second 
gentleman  the  first  lady.  This  change  is 
made  all  down  the  set. 

i      Whether  the  word  Furry  is  derived  from 
I  Flora  or  from  fer^  a  fair  or  merrymaking, 
\  or  from  the  Greek  <£ep>,  "  to  bear,"  or  from 
•   the  Cornish  furrier,  a  thief,  alluding  to  the 
spoils  of  the  greenwood  brought  home   to 
deck  their  festival,  I  must  leave  to  the  in- 
genuity of  the  curious.    The  modern  festival 
is  utilised  by  the  inhabitants  of  Helston  as 
an   occasion    for    holding   horse,    dog,    and 
poultry    shows,  and    also  a    Home   Mission 
bazaar ;  but  it  still  remains  one  of  the  most 
curious    and    interesting    gatherings    in    the 

Formerly  any  one  found  at  work  on  this 
day  was  seized,  set  astride  on  a  pole,  jolted 
away  on  men's  shoulders  amidst  a  thousand 
huzzas,  and  at  last  sentenced  to  leap  over  a 
part  of  the  river,  so  wide  that  the  task  was 
impossible  without  the  performer  being  im- 
mersed. He  could,  however,  gain  his  liberty 
by  a  small  contribution  towards  the  entertain- 
ments of  the  day.  The  boys  of  the  Grammar 
School  were  not  forgotten,  and  a  holiday  was 
demanded  for  them  by  the  revellers.  The 
children  used  to  "  fade "  (a  Cornish  word 

Beating   the  Bounds 

signifying  "to  go")  into  the  country,  and 
return  with  their  heads  decorated  with  flowers 
and  oak-leaves.  Latterly  all  the  ancient  cus- 
toms connected  with  the  day  have  not  been 
strictly  observed,  but  the  old  Furry  dance  is 
still  kept  up  with  accustomed  vigour. 

The  week  in  which  Rogation-tide  and 
Ascension  Day  fall  is  sometimes  known  as 
Gang  Week,  so  named  from  the  custom  of 
ganging  or  beating  the  bounds  of  the  parishes. 
This  custom  was  once  universally  practised. 
In  the  "  Book  of  Homilies  "  there  is  a  special 
"  Exhortation  to  be  spoken  to  such  parishes 
when  they  use  their  perambulation  in  Roga- 
tion Week,  for  the  oversight  of  the  bounds 
and  limits  of  their  town."  The  words  of 
the  homily  are  worth  quoting,  and  state  that 
"  we  have  occasion  given  us  in  our  walks  to- 
day to  consider  the  old  ancient  bounds  and 
limits  belonging  to  our  township,  and  to 
other  our  neighbours  bordering  about  us,  to 
the  intent  that  we  should  be  content  with 
our  own,  and  not  contentiously  strive  for 
others',  to  the  breach  of  charity,  by  any 
encroaching  one  upon  another,  or  claiming 
one  of  the  other,  further  than  that  in  ancient 
right  and  custom  our  forefathers  have  peace- 
fully laid  out  unto  us  for  our  commodity 
and  comfort."  Lawyers'  deeds  and  the  Ord- 
nance Survey  maps  have  rendered  it  well-nigh 
impossible  to  be  guilty  of  the  encroaching 

Old  English   Customs 

of  which  the  homily  speaks,  but  in  several 
places  the  custom  of  beating  the  bounds  is 
still  kept  up. 

At  Malborough,  Devonshire,  the  practice 
is  observed  with  all  due  formality ;  the  mayor 
and  town-councillors  invariably  perambulate 
the  town  and  traverse  its  boundaries.  A  few 
years  ago  the  mayor  himself  was  thoroughly 
ducked  during  his  progress,  in  order  to  ensure 
his  remembering  a  certain  bit  of  the  river 
boundary.  In  many  places  boys  were  beaten 
or  ducked  at  certain  spots,  in  order  to  impress 
their  memories  with  the  details  of  the  parish 
bounds ;  but  it  is  not  often  that  so  important 
and  dignified  an  official  as  a  mayor  receives 
such  a  painful  aid  to  memory. 

In  beating  the  bounds  of  the  city  of  Oxford 
it  is  necessary  for  the  mayor  and  corporation 
to  take  a  boat  and  go  on  the  river.  A  few 
years  ago  we  read  that <f  the  mayor  and  others 
were  upset,"  and  later  on  the  boat  capsized. 
Perhaps  this  ducking  was  in  lieu  of  "  bump- 
ing," and  shows  that  even  the  holding  of  the 
office  of  mayor  has  some  drawbacks. 

Every  three  years  the  bounds  of  the  parish 
of  St.  Mary's,  Leicester,  are  beaten,  and  the 
day  is  observed  as  a  holiday  by  the  children. 
The  procession  is  composed  of  the  vicar, 
churchwardens,  and  other  officials,  and  about 
two  hundred  and  fifty  boys.  Formerly  at 
one  spot  in  the  route  a  hole  was  dug,  and 

Beating  the  Bounds 

any  newly-appointed  parish  officer  was  seized, 
and  his  head  placed  in  the  hole,  while  his 
body  was  thumped  with  a  shovel.  A  feast 
was  held,  and  various  sports  followed,  such 
as  racing,  bobbing  for  apples  in  buckets  of 
water,  &c. ;  but  these  have  been  discontinued. 

At  Lichfield  on  Ascension  Day  the  choris- 
ters of  the  cathedral  deck  the  houses  and 
street  lamps  in  the  parish  of  the  Close  with 
elm-boughs.  After  the  midday  service  the 
clergy  and  choir  start  in  procession  from  the 
cathedral,  properly  vested,  the  boys  carrying 
small  pieces  of  elm,  and  go  round  the  boun- 
daries of  the  parish,  making  a  halt  at  eight 
stations  where  wells  exist,  or  are  said  to  have 
existed.  At  each  of  these  stations  the  Gospel 
for  the  day  is  said  by  one  of  the  priest -vicars 
in  turn,  followed  by  the  singing  of  one  verse 
of  Psalm  civ.  or  c.  On  re-entering  the  cathe- 
dral by  the  north-west  door,  the  verse,  "  O 
enter  then  His  gates  with  praise"  is  sung, 
and  the  company  gather  round  the  font, 
where  the  blessing  is  given,  and  the  boys 
throw  down  their  boughs.  On  the  same  day 
the  sacrist  gives  a  bun  to  every  unconfirmed 
child  in  the  parish. 

At  Oxford  the  bounds  of  the  parish  of  St. 
Mary  the  Virgin  were  beaten  by  boys  with 
white  willow  wands  when  Dean  Burgon  was 
the  vicar,  and  the  writer  remembers  to  have 
seen  them  entering  the  quadrangle  of  Oriel 

Old  English   Customs 

College  during  their  perambulations.  I  am 
not  aware  whether  the  practice  is  still  con- 

In  a  parish  in  Suffolk  the  vicar  revived 
the  custom  a  few  years  ago,  but  the  farmers 
objected  to  the  people  crossing  their  fields 
and  making  gaps  in  their  hedges. 

Just  over  the  Border  they  have  a  famous 
beating  of  the  bounds,  better  known  as  the 
Selkirk  Common-Riding.  On  the  eve  of 
the  celebration  the  senior  burgh  officer,  at- 
tended by  a  fifer  and  a  drummer,  marches 
through  the  town  and  announces  to  the 
lieges  that  on  the  morrow  the  important  and 
historic  ceremonies  would  be  observed.  At 
four  o'clock  on  the  following  day  the  caller 
morning  air  is  pierced  by  the  music  of  the 
fife  and  drum,  and  soon  a  band  of  pipers 
parade  the  streets,  and  enthusiastic  "Souters" 
of  all  ages  assemble  to  take  part  in  the  pro- 
ceedings. The  flag  of  the  town,  an  old  and 
battered  pennon,  has  recently  been  replaced 
by  a  new  one,  which  is  carried  in  the  Com- 
mon-Riding. The  object  of  this  festival  is 
to  ride  the  marches  of  the  town's  lands  in 
order  to  protect  them  from  the  encroach- 
ments or  thieving  propensities  of  neighbour- 
ing lairds.  A  procession  is  then  formed 
consisting  of  mounted  constables,  the  brass 
band,  the  Bailies  and  members  of  the  Town- 
Council,  the  Hammermen  with  their  flag, 

Selkirk   Common-Riding 

the  Merchant  Company,  Standard  -  Bearer, 
Provost,  Town-Clerk,  Burleymen,  and  others, 
all  mounted,  to  the  number  of  about  a 
hundred.  The  Common-Riding  Choir  sing 
appropriate  melodies.  Then  the  riders  pro- 
ceed on  their  gallop  round  the  marches,  and 
not  unusually  several  "  spills  "  occur  amongst 
the  inexperienced  equestrians.  Refreshments 
are  served  at  different  places  during  the 
journey,  and  the  lease  of  one  farm  obliges 
the  tenant  to  regale  the  horsemen  at  the 
Common-Riding.  Races  are  run  for  switches 
amidst  wild  excitement,  and  then  the  com- 
pany return  to  the  town,  where  a  picturesque 
ceremony  takes  place  commemorating  the 
noble  achievements  of  the  famous  Selkirk 
Souters  at  Flodden  Field.  The  Hammer- 
men and  the  Souters  cast  the  colours  to  the 
tune  of  "  Up  wi'  the  Souters  o'  Selkirk," 
and  the  ceremony  is  concluded  with  tumul- 
tuous cheers.  The  Selkirk  Common-Riding 
is  the  great  festival  of  the  year  in  the  town, 
and  does  much  to  foster  local  esprit  de  corps, 
and  to  preserve  the  historical  and  legendary 
lore  of  this  beautiful  Border  district. 

In  London  in  several  parishes,  and  at  Tor- 
quay, beating  the  bounds  is  observed  with 
municipal  honours;  and  possibly  in  many 
other  places  the  custom  still  exists,  but  no 
further  particulars  have  been  ascertained  of 
the  practice  of  this  ancient  observance. 

Old  English   Customs 

May  29th,  the  birthday  of  Charles  II.,  and 
the  day  of  his  public  entry  into  London  after 
the  Restoration,  is  duly  honoured  by  young 
people  in  many  parts  of  the  country.  In 
Wilts  it  is  known  as  Shitsack  or  Shick-shack 
Day,1  when  the  children  carry  shitsack,  or 
sprigs  of  young  oak,  in  the  morning,  and 
powder-monkey  or  even-ash  (ash  leaves  with 
an  equal  number  of  leaflets)  in  the  afternoon. 
Those  who  wear  these  emblems  of  loyalty 
have  the  privilege  of  pinching  or  otherwise 
ill-treating  those  who  do  not  don  the  oak- 
leaf.  The  adoption  of  this  leaf  is,  of  course, 
intended  to  commemorate  the  escape  of  the 
King  when  he  hid  himself  in  the  famous  oak 
at  Boscobel  after  the  battle  of  Worcester. 

At  Edlesborough,  Buckinghamshire,  it  has 
always  been  the  custom  to  attach  an  oak- 
bough  to  the  flag-staff  on  the  church-tower 
on  "  Oak  Apple  Day,"  and  we  remember  to 
have  seen  a  similar  practice  in  Cheshire. 

The  day  is  called  "  Oak  and  Nettle  Day  " 
in  Nottinghamshire,  where  the  boys  arm 
themselves  with  oaken  sprigs  and  bunches  of 
nettles.  All  who  cannot  "  show  their  oak," 
and  thus  testify  to  their  loyalty,  are  punished 
by  being  struck  with  the  nettles  on  their 
hands  and  face.  Rotten  eggs  used  to  be  in- 
struments of  punishment  about  twenty  years 

1  Also  in  Berks. 

Royal  Oak  Day 

Royal  Oak  Day  is  loyally  observed  at 
Northampton,  which  has  a  grateful  remem- 
brance of  several  generous  acts  of  the  Stuart 
king.  A  great  fire  nearly  destroyed  the  town 
in  1675,  and  Charles  II.  gave  the  citizens 
a  thousand  tons  of  timber  out  of  Whittle- 
wood  Forest  to  enable  them  to  rebuild  their 
houses,  and  also  remitted  the  duty  of  chimney- 
money  for  seven  years.  Hence  his  memory 
is  duly  honoured.  The  corporation  attend 
All  Saints'  Church  on  May  29th,  and  march 
thither  in  procession,  followed  by  all  the 
school-children  in  the  town,  the  boys  having 
gilt  oak-apples  in  their  caps.  The  statue  of 
the  king,  near  the  church,  is  also  decorated 
with  oaken  boughs  on  this  day,  and  many  of 
the  houses  are  similarly  adorned.  Northamp- 
ton is  evidently  very  loyal,  and  does  not  forget 

A  very  strange  custom  prevails  on  this 
day  at  Wishford  and  Barford,  near  Salisbury. 
The  inhabitants  of  these  villages  have  certain 
rights  in  Grovely  woods.  These  rights  are 
kept  up  by  a  meeting  on  "  Oak  Apple  Day," 
when  boughs  are  gathered  and  carried  in  pro- 
cession, and  the  cry  is  "  Grovely  !  Grovely  ! 
Grovely ! " 

It   is  still   the    custom   for    the   Durham 

Cathedral  choir  to  ascend  the  tower  of  the 

cathedral  on  May  29,  and  sing  three  anthems 

from  the  three  sides  of  it.     This  custom  is 


Old  English   Customs 

as  old  as  the  battle  of  Neville's  Cross,  which 
Queen  Philippa  fought  with  David  I.  of  Scot- 
land in  the  year  1 346,  when  the  monks  chanted 
masses  from  the  summit  of  the  tower  on  be- 
half of  the  Queen.  Tradition  states  that  a 
choir  boy  once  overbalanced  himself  and  fell 
from  the  tower,  and  was  killed.  Hence  the 
choir  only  sing  their  anthems  on  the  three 



Club  feasts  at  Whitsuntide — Bampton,  Oxon — 
Morris-dancers — Irish  "death  ride" — Wakes  in 
Lancashire  and  Yorks — Rush-bearing  at  Oldham, 
Ambleside,  Grasmere — Hay  strewing  at  Braun- 
ston,  Leicester — Horn  dance  at  Abbot  Bromley — 
"  Flower  sermon  " — Cornish  "feastcn  "  Sunday. 

WHITSUNTIDE  is  the  great  season  for 
the  old  club  feasts.  From  an  economic 
point  of  view,  no  one  who  has  the  welfare 
of  the  people  at  heart  will  regret  the  decline 
of  the  old  village  benefit  clubs.  They  were 
nearly  all  rotten ;  they  were  conducted  on 
the  most  unsound  systems  of  financial  orga- 
nisation ;  they  usually  failed  to  benefit  the 
members  when  aid  was  most  needed ;  and 
their  place  is  well  supplied  by  the  admirably 
conducted  benefit  societies,  the  Oddfellows, 
Foresters,  and  other  sound  benefit  clubs. 
But  the  student  of  the  manners  and  customs 
of  our  race  regrets  the  disappearance  of  many 
of  our  village  clubs,  because  it  has  entailed 
the  destruction  of  many  old  customs  asso- 
ciated with  the  annual  club  feast,  which 
were  not  without  their  special  interest  and 

Old  English   Customs 

importance.     Those  that  have  survived  the 
lapse  of  time  are  here  recorded. 

At  Bampton,  Oxon,  in  order  to  celebrate 
the  club  feast,  which  is  held  on  Whit-Mon- 
day, a  procession  goes  round  the  town ;  it  is 
made  up  as  follows  : — 

1.  A  drum-and-piper,  or,  as  he  is  more 
commonly   called,    "  whittle-and-dub "    man 
(the  term  pipe-and-tabour  was  in  use  within 
living  memory) ;  the  music  is  now,  however, 
played  by  a  fiddler. 

2.  Eight  morris-dancers,  dressed  in  finely- 
pleated  white  shirts,  white  moleskin  trousers, 
and  top-hats  decorated  with  red,  white,  and 
blue  ribbons.     Only  six  dance  at  a  time,  two 
standing    out  to    relieve  the  others.     They 
dance  to  certain  well-known  tunes  (a  list  of 
which  is  given),  and  sing  while  they  dance. 

3.  A    clown    called    the    "  Squire,"    who 
carries  a  staff  with  a  calf  s  tail  at  one  end 
and  a  bladder  at  the  other,  with  which  he 
belabours  the  bystanders.     He  also  carries  a 
money-box,  known  as  the  "  treasury,"  which 
in  this  case  is  a  wood  box  with  a  slit  in  the  lid. 

4.  A  "  sword-bearer,"  who  carries  a  cake 
in  a  round  tin   impaled  on  a  sword.     The 
cake  is  a  rich  pound-cake,  and  is  provided 
by  some  lady  in  the  town.     The  tin  has  its 
rim  cut  into  zig-zags,  and  has  a  slit  in  the 
bottom    to    admit   the    sword-blade.      Both 
cake  and  sword  are  decorated  with  ribbons. 


Whitsuntide  Customs 

When  the  dancing  begins,  any  one  who 
wishes  can  taste  the  cake  by  applying  to  the 
"  sword-bearer."  When  all  is  over  at  night, 
what  is  left  of  the  cake  is  divided  amongst 
the  eleven  men,  who  generally  give  it  to 
their  friends. 

First  Dance,  to  the  tune  of11  Green  Garters" 

"  First  for  the  stockings,  and  then  for  the  shoes, 
And  then  for  the  bonny  green  garters ; 
A  pair  for  me,  and  a  pair  for  you, 
And  a  pair  for  they  that  comes  after." 

Second  Dance,  to  the  tune  of  "  Constant  Billy" 

"  Oh,  rny  Billy,  my  constant  Billy, 
When  shall  I  see  my  Billy  again  ? 
When  the  fishes  fly  over  the  mountain, 
Then  you'll  see  your  Billy  again." 

Third  Dance,  to  the  tune  of"  The  Willow  Tree." 

"  Once  they  said  my  lips  were  red, 
Now  they're  scarlet  pale ; 
When  I,  like  a  silly  girl, 
Believ'd  his  flattering  tale. 
But  he  vow'd  he'd  never  deceive  me, 
And  so  fondly  I  believ'd  he, 
While  the  stars  and  the  moon 

So  sweetly  shone 

Over  the  willow-tree." 

Old  English   Customs 

Fourth  Dance,  to  the  tune  of  "  The  Maid 
of  the  Mi//." 

"  There's  fifty  fair  maidens  that  sport  on  the  green, 

I  gaz'd  on  them  well,  as  you  see ; 
But  the  Maid  of  the  Mill,  the  Maid  of  the  Mill, 

The  Maid  of  the  Mill  for  me. 
She  is  straight  and  tall  as  a  poplar-tree, 

Her  cheeks  are  red  as  a  rose ; 
She  is  one  of  the  fairest  young  girls  I  see, 

When  she's  dress'd  in  her  Sunday  clothes. 
The  Maid  of  the  Mill,  the  Maid  of  the  Mill, 

The  Maid  of  the  Mill  for  me." 

Handsome  John. 

"  John  is  a  handsome  youth  complete, 
A  smarter  young  lad  never  walked  the  street 
And  still  the  lady's  tongue  runs  on— 
Oh  !  what  a  handsome  man  was  John  ! 
Sing  fal  the  ral  a  li  do." 

Highland  Mary. 

"  Around  sweet  Highland  Mary's  grave 

We'll  plant  the  fairest  of  lilies— 
The  primrose  sweet  and  violet  blue, 

Likewise  the  daffodillies. 
But  since  this  world's  been  grown  so  wide, 

In  some  lonesome  place  we'll  tarry ; 
Welcome  then  come  (sic),  gather  me  to  sleep 
With  my  Highland  Mary." 

Country  Dances 

Bob  and  Joan. 

11 1  won't  be  my  father's  Jack, 
And  I  won't  be  my  mother's  Jill ; 
But  I  will  be  some  fiddler's  wife, 
Then  we  can  muse  it  at  our  will. 

T'other  little  tune— t'other  little  tune, 
Bob  at  night  and  Bob  at  noon." 

The  melodies  to  which  these  words  are 
sung  are  quaint  and  original.  They  have 
been  noted  down  as  sung  by  the  villagers  at 
the  present  time,  and  are  published  in  the 
Appendix.  Some  of  the  customs  of  old  May 
Day  are  observed  now  at  Whitsuntide  at 
Bampton.1  Other  dancing  tunes  are  "  Old 
Tom  of  Oxford,7'  "The  Old  Green  Bushes," 
"The  Girl  I  Left  Behind  Me,"  "The 
Nutting  Girl,"  "The  Old  Green  Sleeves," 
"J°gging  to  tne  Fair,"  "The  Princess 
Royal,"  "The  Forester's  Daughter,"  "The 
Bride  in  Camp,"  and  "  The  Flowers  of 

It  is  pleasing  to  find  that  at  least  in  one 
village  the  old  country-dances  still  exist. 
In  most  parts  of  England  they  have  become 
extinct.  Waltz  and  polka  have  banished 
the  old  traditional  steps  and  figures,  songs 
and  melodies  which  were  once  favoured  at 
the  Court  of  the  Stuarts,  and  were  carried 
abroad  to  France,  Germany,  and  Italy,  and 

1  Cf.  "  May  Day  Customs,"  p.  100. 

Old  English   Customs 

became  everywhere  popular.  They  were 
called  country-dances,  or  contre-danses,  be- 
cause the  performers  were  formed  in  two 
lines,  the  ladies  on  one  side,  the  gentlemen 
on  the  other.  Whilst  they  danced  the 
familiar  steps,  "  crossed  hands  and  down  the 
middle,"  all  the  dancers  sang  the  words  of 
the  old  ballad  "  Bob  and  Joan  "  or  "  High- 
land Mary."  Such  were  the  old  English 
country-dances,  which  the  Bampton  villagers 
have  preserved  until  the  present  day.  We 
have  witnessed  notable  revivals  of  May 
Queens  and  Maypole  dances.  May  we  hope 
that  some  one  will  revive  for  us  the  old- 
fashioned  English  country-dances  ? 

In  the  Kennet  Valley,  near  Newbury, 
Whitsuntide  is  the  great  village  holiday 
when  the  surviving  clubs  assemble.  Decked 
out  in  their  best  clothes  adorned  with 
ribbons  and  banners,  the  men  parade  the 
lanes,  preceded  by  a  band,  and  march  to 
the  church,  where  a  special  service  is  held. 
Then  they  adjourn  to  a  barn  and  have 
dinner,  and  later  in  the  day  go  to  one  or 
two  of  the  principal  houses  in  the  neigh- 
bourhood, where  dancing  takes  place  on  the 
lawn  or  drives,  while  the  band  plays  vigor- 
ously. Village  sports,  running,  and  racing 
are  not  uncommon  at  these  club  feasts,  and 
at  Brindle,  near  Preston,  Lancashire,  we 
have  seen  a  most  graceful  company  of 


morris-dancers,  consisting  of  about  sixteen 
young  men,  dressed  in  tight-fitting  purple 
knickerbockers  and  stockings,  with  football 
"  sweaters  "  of  the  same  colour.  They  had 
staves  in  their  hands,  and  danced  up  the 
village  street,  striking  their  staves  together 
in  rhythmic  time,  while  a  band  played  stirring 
melodies.  It  was  a  graceful  and  pleasing 
spectacle,  and  may  still  be  seen  in  the  neigh- 
bourhood of  Preston  and  Chorley. 

Very  different  from  these  homely  scenes  are 
the  wild  spectacles  which  Irish  superstition 
brings  before  the  eyes  of  the  credulous,  and 
none  are  so  weird  as  "  the  death-ride  "  which 
occurs  at  Whitsuntide,  The  Irish  peasants 
believe  that  on  a  particular  day  at  this 
season  of  the  year  all  those  who  have  been 
drowned  in  the  sea  come  up  and  ride  over 
the  waves  on  white  horses  and  hold  strange 
revels.  A  fisherman  who  remained  on  the 
water  on  the  night  of  this  ghastly  pageant 
saw  a  crowd  of  the  dead  on  white  horses 
making  their  way  towards  him.  Their  faces 
were  pale  with  the  hue  of  death  and  their 
eyes  burned  with  fire.  They  stretched  out 
thin  long  arms  to  lay  hold  on  him,  but  he 
managed  to  escape  from  their  fearful  grasp. 
As  he  landed,  however,  one  of  the  horsemen 
rode  close  to  him,  and  he  saw  the  face  of 
a  friend  who  had  been  drowned  the  year 
before,  and  heard  a  voice  calling  him  to 
129  i 

Old  English   Customs 

escape.  Accordingly,  he  fled  at  full  speed, 
never  even  daring  to  look  back  to  see  whether 
he  was  pursued. 

The  Wakes  festivals  are  also  great  occa- 
sions for  the  morris-dancers,  especially  at 
Oldham,  Lancashire,  and  in  that  neighbour- 
hood. This  is  one  of  the  oldest  of  our 
feasts,  and  has  survived  with  a  surprising 
tenacity  of  life  in  most  of  the  villages  and 
towns  of  Lancashire.  The  day  of  the 
wakes  is  the  festival  of  the  patron  saint  of 
the  parish  church,  and  is  so  called  because, 
on  the  previous  night  or  vigil,  the  people 
used  to  watch,  or  u  wake,"  in  the  church 
till  the  morning  dawned.  It  is  the  custom 
for  the  inhabitants  of  the  parish  to  keep 
open  house  on  that  day,  and  to  entertain 
all  their  relations  and  friends  from  the  sur- 
rounding neighbourhood,  who  always  make 
a  point  of  visiting  the  village  on  "  Wake 
Sunday."  It  is  a  great  time  for  the  as- 
sembling of  shows  and  roundabouts,  which, 
with  their  steam-organs,  make  night  hideous. 
Nearly  every  town  and  village  in  Lancashire 
observes  its  wakes.  Rochdale,  Hey  wood, 
Ashton-under-Lyne,  and  Oldham  are  especi- 
ally celebrated  for  their  observance  of  this 
festival ;  though  the  people  are  now  in 
the  habit  of  rushing  off  to  the  seaside,  and 
desert  the  local  fair  grounds  for  the  attrac- 
tions of  Morecambe  and  Blackpool.  The 

The   Wakes 

feasts  or  wakes  in  the  neighbourhood  of 
Bradford  are  called  "Tides,"  except  at 
Brighouse,  where  the  festival  is  still  known 
as  the  Rush-bearing,  and  are  kept  up  vigor- 
ously. The  Sunday  after  the  feast  is 
known  as  the  " Thump."1  Thus  we  have  the 
Queensbury  Thump,  the  Clayton,  Thornton, 
Denholme,  and  Allerton  Thumps,  when  the 
natives  who  reside  elsewhere  make  a  rule  to 
visit  their  old  home,  and  the  reassembling 
of  scattered  families  causes  much  social 
happiness.  At  Great  Gransden  the  feast  is 
held  on  the  Monday  after  the  Feast  of  St. 
Bartholomew,  the  patron  saint  of  the  village, 
when  stalls  are  erected  near  the  Plough  Inn, 
and  the  villagers  indulge  in  dancing.  At 
West  Houghton,  Lancashire,  a  huge  pie  is 
made  in  the  shape  of  a  cow's  head,  which  is 
eaten  on  the  day  of  the  wake,  the  Sunday  after 
St.  Bartholomew's  Day.  The  inhabitants  are 
sometimes  called  "  cow  'yeds."  At  the  Old- 
ham  wake  a  rushcart  used  to  be  sent  from  each 
surrounding  locality,  and  as  many  as  ten  rush- 
carts  have  been  seen  in  the  town  on  that  occa- 
sion. They  are  not  now  quite  so  plentiful. 

1  A  writer  in  the  Oldham  Observer  suggests  that  the  name 
arose  from  the  rude  custom  of  "thumping"  any  one  who  entered 
an  inn  on  these  occasions  and  refused  to  pay  for  liquor.  At  a 
recent  Halifax  "  Thump,"  an  offender  of  this  description  was  laid 
face  downwards  and  beaten  with  a  heated  fire  shovel.  The 
ringleader  of  this  frolic  nearly  suffered  a  month's  imprisonment 
on  account  of  his  strict  adherence  to  old  customs. 

Old  English   Customs 

The  origin  of  the  rush-bearing  dates  back 
to  the  early  times  when  the  floors  of  our 
houses  and  churches  consisted  of  the  hard 
dry  earth,  which  was  covered  with  rushes; 
and  once  a  year  there  was  the  great  ceremony 
of  the  rush-bearing,  when  the  inhabitants  of 
each  village  or  town  went  in  procession  to 
the  church  to  strew  the  floor  with  newly-cut 
rushes.  Although  we  no  longer  need  the 
rushes  to  cover  the  nakedness  of  our  church 
aisles,  the  ceremony  of  rush-bearing  still 
exists.  The  rush-cart  is  piled  up  with  rush- 
sheaves  decorated  with  ribbons,  and  the 
morris-dancers  perform  their  quaint  antics. 
Sometimes  there  is  a  May  Queen  under  a 
canopy  of  rushes,  and  a  jester  with  a  bladder 
attached  to  a  staff,  with  which  he  belabours 
the  crowd  as  he  marches  in  front  of  the 

Some  particulars  of  the  annual  rush- 
bearing  at  Ambleside  may  not  be  without 
interest.  It  is  held  on  the  last  Saturday  in 
July,  the  next  Saturday  after  St.  Anne's  Day, 
who  was  the  patron  saint  of  Ambleside.1 
The  children  meet  at  the  church-room,  and 
with  the  rush-bearers,  carrying  about  two 
hundred  crosses  made  of  rushes  and  decorated 
with  flowers,  form  a  procession,  attended  by 
the  clergy.  They  march  to  the  church, 
where  a  special  service  takes  place,  and  a  ser- 

1  The  modern  church  is  dedicated  to  the  Blessed  Virgin. 


mon  is  preached  appropriate  to  the  occasion. 
After  the  service  each  child  receives  a  square 
of  gingerbread,  according  to  ancient  custom. 
On  Sunday  the  festival  is  continued. 

The  rushes,  no  longer  needed  as  a  carpet, 
are  formed  into  various  devices  to  symbolise 
Christian  truths,  and  in  recent  years  have 
been  ornamented  with  flowers.  Rush-bearing 
is  a  beautiful  old  custom,  and  creates  much 
interest  in  the  old-world  places  wherein  it 
continues  to  thrive.  The  floor  of  the  church 
of  St.  Peter,  Barrowden,  is  strewed  with  reeds 
cut  from  the  river-side  for  six  weeks  after 
the  festival  of  St.  Peter. 

The  rush-bearing  at  Grasmere  is  a  beauti- 
ful and  picturesque  festival,  and  claims  to  be 
the  only  place  where  the  custom  appears  to 
have  an  unbroken  record  from  remote  ages 
to  the  present  day.  It  owes  its  preservation 
to  the  energy  of  the  late  vicar,  Mr.  Fletcher, 
and  the  liberality  of  the  late  Mr.  Dawson  of 
Allan  Bank,  Grasmere,  who  was  an  admirer 
of  the  old  custom,  and  encouraged  the 
children  to  keep  up  the  procession  by  pre- 
senting a  reward  to  each  of  the  youthful 
rush-bearers.  Until  1885  the  rush-bearing 
took  place  on  the  Saturday  nearest  July 
2Oth;  it  is  now  celebrated  on  the  Saturday 
nearest  to  St.  Oswald's  Day  (August  5th), 
to  whom  the  church  is  dedicated.  The 
churchwardens'  account-books  reveal  the 

Old  English   Customs 

numerous  charges  for  "  ale  bestowed  on  ye 
rush-bearers  and  others,  2s./1  also  "  cakes 
for  the  rush-bearers,"  &c.  As  late  as  1841 
the  floor  of  the  church  was  unpaved,  and 
was  yearly  strewed  with  rushes  at  the  popular 
festival.  Hone  gives  a  very  interesting 
record  of  rush-bearing  at  Grasmere,  as  it 
was  celebrated  in  the  earlier  years  of  the 
century  (July  21,  1827) :— 

"The  church  door  was  open,  and  I  dis- 
covered that  the  villagers  were  strewing  the 
floor  with  fresh  rushes.  During  the  whole 
of  this  day,  I  observed  the  children  busily 
employed  in  preparing  garlands  of  such  wild 
flowers  as  the  beautiful  valley  produces  for 
the  evening  procession,  which  commenced  at 
9  P.M.,  in  the  following  order : — The  chil- 
dren, chiefly  girls,  holding  these  garlands, 
paraded  through  the  village  preceded  by  the 
Union  Band  (thanks  to  the  great  drum  for 
this  information).  They  then  entered  the 
church,  when  the  three  largest  garlands  were 
placed  on  the  altar,  and  the  remaining  ones 
in  various  other  parts  of  the  place.  In  the 
procession  I  observed  the  Opium-Eater,  Mr. 
Barber  (an  opulent  gentleman  residing  in  the 
neighbourhood),  Mr.  and  Mrs.  Wordsworth, 
Miss  Wordsworth,  and  Miss  Dora  Words- 
worth. Wordsworth  is  the  chief  supporter 
of  these  rustic  ceremonies.  The  procession 
over,  the  party  adjourned  to  the  ball-room, 


a  hayloft,  at  my  worthy  friend  Mr.  Bell's, 
where  the  country  lads  and  lasses  tripped  it 
merrily  and  heavily.  The  dance  was  kept 
up  till  a  quarter  to  twelve,  when  a  livery 
servant  entered  and  delivered  the  follow- 
ing verbal  message  to  Billy  (the  fiddler)  : 
'Master's  respects,  and  will  thank  you  to  lend 
him  the  fiddle-stick.1  Billy  took  the  hint : 
the  Sabbath  was  now  at  hand,  and  the  pastor 
of  the  parish  had  adopted  this  gentle  mode 
of  apprising  the  assembled  revellers  that 
they  ought  to  cease  their  revelry.  The 
servant  departed  with  the  fiddle-stick,  the 
chandelier  was  removed,  and  when  the 
village  clock  struck  twelve,  not  an  indi- 
vidual was  to  be  seen  out  of  doors  in  the 

Pews  and  floors  were  introduced  into  the 
church  in  1841,  but  the  rush-bearing  con- 
tinued to  be  kept  up  with  undiminished 
vigour.  It  is  now  celebrated  on  the  Satur- 
day next  after  St.  Oswald's  Day  (August 
5th),  and  new  developments  have  taken  place, 
which  are  revivals  of  the  old-time  mode  of 
rush-bearing.  The  children  assemble  with 
their  garlands,  and  arrange  them  along  the 
churchyard  wall,  where  thousands  come  to 
admire  the  devices  and  floral  decorations. 
Moses  in  the  bulrushes  used  to  be  a  fav- 
ourite design  which  rush-bearers  attempted 
to  represent.  At  6.30  the  procession  is 


Old  English   Customs 

marshalled    in    the    road    in    the    following 
order : — 

Banner  of  St.  Oswald. 
Clergy  and  Choir  in  surplices. 


Queen  with  Pages. 

Maids  of  Honour  bearing  the  Rush-sheet. 
The  Rush-bearers. 

The  queen  and  her  court  and  the  bearing 
of  the  rush-sheet  were  revived  in  1891. 
The  latter  was  always  an  important  feature 
in  the  old  festival.  "  Arranging  the  sheet," 
says  Bamford,  a  Lancashire  poet,  "  was  ex- 
clusively the  work  of  girls  and  women ;  and 
in  proportion  as  it  was  happily  designed  and 
fitly  put  together,  was  the  praise  or  dispa- 
ragement meted  out  by  the  people — a  point 
on  which  they  would  be  not  a  little  sensitive. 
The  sheet  was  a  piece  of  white  linen,  gene- 
rally a  good  bed-sheet,  and  on  it  were  pretty 
rosettes  and  quaint  compartments,  and  bor- 
derings  of  all  colours  and  hues  which  either 
paper,  tinsel,  ribbons,  or  natural  flowers  could 
supply.  In  these  compartments  were  ar- 
ranged silver  watches,  trays,  spoons,  sugar- 
tongs,  teapots,  quart  tankards,  drinking  cups, 
and  other  fitting  articles  of  ornament  and 
value."  The  present  sheet  was  spun  in  Gras- 
mere  by  a  young  woman  of  the  village. 

After  the  procession  has  been  formed,  the 


hymn  for  St.  Oswald  is  sung,  and  the  band 
plays  the  "  Rush-bearing  March "  (said  to 
have  been  played  nearly  a  century  ago),  and 
the  procession  perambulates  the  village,  the 
bells  ringing  and  the  tower  flag  flying.  On 
returning  to  the  church,  the  Rush-bearers' 
Hymn  is  sung,  and  the  garlands  arranged 
round  the  walls.  Full  choral  Evensong  fol- 
lows. The  children  afterwards  receive  gin- 
gerbread, and  some  wrestling  bouts  engage 
the  attention  of  the  young  men.  The  gar- 
lands are  removed  on  the  following  Mon- 
day to  a  neighbouring  field,  where  the  May- 
pole is  set  up,  and  a  regular  gala  held  for 
the  rush-bearers  and  all  who  choose  to  share 
it.  The  words  of  the  Rush-bearers'  Hymn 
and  that  of  St.  Oswald  have  no  great  dis- 
tinguishing merit,  and  two  verses  of  the 
former  may  suffice  : — 

The  Rush-bearers'  Hymn. 

Our  fathers  to  the  House  of  God, 

As  yet  a  building  rude, 
Bore  offerings  from  the  flowery  sod, 

And  fragrant  rushes  strewed. 

May  we,  their  children,  ne'er  forget 

The  pious  lesson  given, 
But  honour  still,  together  met, 

The  Lord  of  Earth  and  Heaven. 

The  rush-bearing  with  morris-dancing  is 


Old  English   Customs 

still  kept  up  at  Whitworth,  near  Rochdale ; 
at  Warcop,  Westmorland ;  Haworth  and 
Saddleworth,  Yorks  ;  and  other  places. 

Sometimes  churches  are  now  strewn  with 
hay,  as  is  the  case  at  Braunston,  Leicester- 
shire, on  the  day  of  the  feast,  the  Sunday 
after  St.  Peter's  Day.  On  the  Thursday 
before  the  wake  or  feast,  the  Holme 
Meadow  is  mown,  and  the  parish  clerk 
fetches  on  the  Saturday  a  small  load  of 
hay,  which  he  must  spread  with  his  hands 
on  the  floor  of  the  church.  The  portion 
of  the  meadow  whence  the  hay  is  brought 
is  called  "The  Clerk's  Acre,"  and  the  rest 
of  the  hay  belongs  to  him.  At  many  other 
churches  in  Leicestershire  the  same  custom 
used  to  exist,  but  we  believe  this  is  the  only 
surviving  one. 

It  will  be  remarked  that  the  wakes  were 
originally  a  religious  festival  held  in  honour 
of  the  patron  saint  of  the  village.  It  was 
the  occasion  for  the  assembling  of  many 
people  from  the  neighbouring  towns  and 
villages.  Hence  the  chapmen  and  trades- 
folk came  to  exhibit  and  sell  their  wares, 
and  the  festival  of  the  saint  became  the 
fair  of  the  place ;  the  word  itself  being 
derived  from  the  ecclesiastical  term  feria,  a 
holiday.  The  religious  element  of  the  old 
wakes  has  passed  away,  but  the  festival  is 
still  observed  as  a  great  social  and  friendly 


Horn-'Dance  at  Abbot  Bromley 

gathering ;  and  as  it  continues  to  promote 
kindly  and  neighbourly  feelings,  it  is  not 
without  its  uses. 

The  annual  wakes  at  Abbot  Bromley,  a 
village  on  the  borders  of  Needwood  Forest, 
near  Stafford,  is  celebrated  by  a  curious 
survival  from  mediaeval  times  called  the 
Horn-dance.  Six  deer-skulls  with  antlers, 
mounted  on  short  poles,  are  carried  about 
by  men  grotesquely  attired,  who  caper  to 
a  lively  tune,  and  make  "the  deer,"  as  the 
antlers  are  called,  dance  about.  Another 
quaintly  dressed  individual,  mounted  on  a 
hobby-horse,  is  at  hand  with  a  whip,  with 
which  he  lashes  the  deer  every  now  and  again 
in  order  to  keep  them  moving.  Meanwhile 
a  sportsman  with  a  bow  and  arrow  makes 
believe  to  shoot  the  deer.  The  horn-dance 
used  to  take  place  on  certain  Sunday  morn- 
ings at  the  main  entrance  to  the  parish 
church,  when  a  collection  was  made  for  the 
poor.  At  the  present  day  the  horns  are  the 
property  of  the  vicar  for  the  time  being,  and 
are  kept,  with  a  bow  and  arrow  and  the 
frame  of  the  hobby-horse,  in  the  church- 
tower,  together  with  a  curious  old  pot  for 
collecting  money  at  the  dance.  It  takes 
place  now  on  the  Monday  after  Wakes  Sun- 
day, which  is  the  Sunday  next  to  September 
4th.  Similar  dances  formerly  took  place 
in  other  places  in  the  county  of  Stafford, 


Old  English   Customs 

notably  at  the  county  town  and  Seighford, 
where  they  lingered  until  the  beginning  of 
the  century.  The  under-jaw  of  the  hobby- 
horse is  loose,  and  is  worked  by  a  string,  so 
that  it  " clacks"  against  the  upper-jaw  in  time 
with  the  music.  The  money  is  collected  by  a 
woman,  probably  Maid  Marion ;  the  archer 
is  doubtless  a  representation  of  Robin  Hood  ; 
and  besides  these  characters  there  is  a  jester. 
Dr.  Cox  has  examined  the  horns,  and  pro- 
nounced them  to  be  reindeer  horns. 

The  city  of  London  even  is  not  deprived 
at  this  bright  season  of  all  associations  with 
the  beauties  of  the  country.  At  St.  James' 
Church,  Mitre  Court,  Aldgate,  on  Whitsun 
Tuesday,  the  "  Flower  Sermon  "  is  preached, 
and  at  St.  Leonard's  Church,  Shoreditch,  a 
botanical  sermon  is  delivered,  according  to 
the  will  of  Thomas  Fairchild  in  1729. 

In  Cornwall  the  festival  of  the  dedication 
of  each  church  is  kept  on  the  nearest  Sun- 
day and  Monday  to  the  saint's  day,  which 
are  called  by  the  people  "  Feasten "  Sunday 
and  Monday.  "  Plum-cake,"  coloured  bright 
yellow  with  saffron,  is  the  favourite  viand  on 
these  occasions. 


Midsummer  Eve  customs,  Pontypriddy  Wales — 
Cornish  customs  —  Bale-Jtres  —  Ratby  meadow- 
mowing — Reeve  houses  at  Desford  —  Harvest 
customs — Mell-sheaf  and  Kern-supper — Kern- 
baby  —  The  "  maiden  " — Cailleach  — Devonshire 
"  Knack" — "  Dumping" — Harvest-bell — Horn- 
blowing  in  Hertfordshire  —  Harvest-songs  — 
Sheep-shearing  in  Dorset — Michaelmas  goose — 
Biddenham  rabbit — St.  Crispin  s  Day  and  the 

1  HERE  is  a  strange  mixture  of  elements 
in  the  constitution  of  our  social  customs  and 
observances.  Some  of  them  are  distinctly 
ecclesiastical  and  of  Christian  origin,  though, 
as  we  have  seen,  in  many  cases  the  religious 
element  has  been  eliminated.  In  others  the 
origin  is  distinctly  Pagan,  and  carries  us  back 
to  the  time  when  Norse  legendary  lore  or 
Saxon  superstition  filled  the  hearts  of  our 

The  observance  of  the  wakes  was  originally 
of  a  religious  character.  We  now  record 
one  of  a  distinctively  Celtic  nature.  Mid- 
summer Eve  is  one  of  the  ancient  Druidic  festi- 
vals still  liberally  honoured  in  Wales.  The 

Old  English   Customs 

custom  of  lighting  bonfires  survives  in  many 
villages,  and  around  them  the  villagers  dance 
and  leap  through  the  flames.  At  Pontypridd 
there  are  various  ceremonies  of  a  solemn  sort. 
The  leaping  through  the  flames  is  supposed 
to  ward  off  evil  spirits  and  prevent  sickness. 
The  connection  of  the  ceremony  of  the  bon- 
fires with  the  old  worship  of  the  sun  is  in- 
disputable. Its  practice  was  very  general 
in  nearly  all  European  nations,  and  in  not 
very  remote  times,  from  Norway  to  the  shores 
of  the  Mediterranean,  the  glow  of  St.  John's 
fires  might  have  been  seen.  The  Scandi- 
navians lit  their  bonfires  in  honour  of  their 
gods  Odin  and  Thor,  and  the  leaping  through 
the  flames  reminds  us  of  the  worshippers  of 
Baal  and  Moloch,  who  used  to  pass  their 
children  through  the  fire  that  burned  at  the 
feet  of  their  cruel  god.  It  is  strange  that 
such  a  custom  should  have  had  so  long  a 

The  customs  of  Wales  and  Cornwall  are 
naturally  very  similar,  and  on  the  Cornish 
hills  the  bonfires  blaze,  though  they  are  not 
so  numerous  as  formerly.  In  remote  and 
primitive  districts  the  people  still  believe 
that  dancing  in  a  ring  around  a  bonfire  or 
leaping  through  its  flames  is  calculated  to 
ensure  good  luck  to  the  performers,  and  to 
serve  as  a  protection  from  witchcraft  and 
other  malign  influences  during  the  ensuing 

Midsummer  s  Eve 

year.  Some  years  ago  on  Midsummer's  Eve 
the  old  people  would  hobble  away  to  some 
high  ground  whence  they  could  obtain  a  view 
of  the  most  prominent  hills,  such  as  Carn- 
brea,  Castle-an-Dinas,  Carn  Galver,  St.  Agnes 
Bickaw,  and  many  other  beacon-hills  far  away 
to  the  north  and  east,  which  vied  with  each 
other  in  their  midsummer's  blaze.  They 
counted  the  fires,  and  drew  a  presage  from 
the  number  of  them.  There  are  now  but 
few  bonfires  to  be  seen  on  the  western  heights; 
but  Tregonan,  Godolphin,  and  Carn  Martle 
Hills,  with  others  towards  Redruth,  still 
retain  their  Baal  fires.  Groups  of  girls, 
neatly  dressed  and  decked  with  garlands, 
wreaths,  or  chaplets  of  flowers,  until  quite 
recently  used  to  dance  in  the  streets  on  Mid- 
summer's Eve ;  but  this  custom  has  almost 
died  out. 

But  when  we  cross  the  sea  and  visit  the 
extreme  west  of  Brittany,  we  see  the  Baal- 
fires  blaze  on  every  hill,  round  which  the 
peasants  dance  all  night,  in  their  holiday 
clothes,  to  the  sound  of  the  biniou  (a  kind 
of  rustic  hautboy)  and  the  shepherd's  horn. 
The  girl  who  dances  round  nine  St.  John's 
fires  before  midnight  is  sure  to  be  married 
within  the  year.  In  many  parishes  the  cure 
himself  goes  in  procession  with  banner  and 
cross  to  light  the  sacred  fire,  and  all  the  super- 
stitions which  ever  flourished  in  the  Celtic 

Old  English   Customs 

portion  of  our  island  are  venerated  and  ob- 
served with  unabated  faith  and  zeal.  In  Ireland 
too  the  Bale  or  Beltane  fires  are  lighted,  and 
young  men  leap  through  the  flames,  while 
the  children  are  lifted  across  the  embers  when 
the  fire  has  burnt  low,  in  order  to  secure 
them  good  luck  during  the  coming  year. 
This  usually  takes  place  on  May  Day  in 
Ireland.  Lady  Wilde  gives  an  account  of 
the  origin  of  these  fires  which  was  furnished 
by  an  old  peasant.  The  "bushes"  lighted 
on  May  Day  were  first  set  up  in  honour  of 
the  conquest  of  the  Tuatha  de  Danans  by 
the  great  Milesians.  A  magician  of  the 
Tuatha  caused  innumerable  fiery  darts  to  go 
forth  against  the  Milesian  prince ;  but  in 
passing  they  were  all  stopped  by  a  bush  that 
stood  between  the  chief  and  the  magician,  so 
that  a  flame  arose  and  the  bush  withered  and 
burned  away.  Hence  the  burning  of  the 
May  bushes,  which  to  this  day  are  supposed 
to  preserve  those  who  pass  through  the 
smoke  against  witchcraft.  The  authority  of 
this  folk  legend  is,  of  course,  indisputable. 

"  To  the  immortal  memory  of  John  of 
Gaunt"  is,  as  we  have  already  noticed,  a 
toast  drunk  at  the  Hocktide  solemnities  at 
Hungerford.  There  is  another  town  where 
the  same  toast  is  annually  proposed  and 
drunk  in  solemn  silence.  At  Ratby,  in  the 
county  of  Leicester,  an  annual  feast  takes 

Meadow- Mowing   Custom 

place  which  is  remarkable  for  several  quaint 
observances,  and  owes  its  origin  to  the  time 
of  the  worthy  son  of  King  Edward  III.  It 
appears  that  the  lot  meadows  at  Ratby 
adjoined  the  road,  and  the  custom  from 
very  early  times  was  for  the  occupiers  to 
mow  their  crops  on  a  certain  day,  called 
"  Meadow-morning,"  and  to  spend  the  rest 
of  the  day  with  music  and  dancing.  Now 
it  happened  that  John  of  Gaunt,  Duke  of 
Lancaster,  passed  along  the  road,  and  observ- 
ing their  mirth  and  festivity,  he  alighted 
from  his  horse  and  asked  the  cause  of  their 
diversion.  They  told  him  that  they  were 
mowing  their  meadow,  called  Ramsdale, 
according  to  their  annual  custom.  The 
Duke,  still  preserving  his  incognito,  joined 
in  their  diversions,  and  was  so  pleased 
with  their  innocent  pastimes,  that  when  he 
took  his  leave  he  told  them  that  if  they 
would  meet  him  in  Leicester,  he  would  give 
to  each  of  them  a  ewe  to  their  ram,  also 
a  wether  whose  fleece  would  make  them  a 
rich  repast.  Accordingly  the  rustics  went  to 
Leicester,  and  the  Duke  redeemed  his  pro- 
mise by  giving  them  three  pieces  of  land  to 
be  called  respectively,  "  the  Ewes,"  "  the 
Boots,"  and  "  the  Wether,"  the  grass  on  the 
last  field  to  be  sold  annually  to  defray  the 
cost  of  a  feast  on  Whit-Monday.  He  also 
drew  up  certain  articles  for  the  regulation 
145  K 

Old  English   Customs 

of  this  bequest.     Two  persons  were  to  be 
chosen  annually,  to  be  called  caterers,  who 
should  go  to  Leicester  to  what  inn  they  should 
think    proper,    when    a    calf's-head    should 
be  provided  for  their  breakfast ;  and  when 
the  bones   were  picked  clean,  they  were  to 
be  put   on  a  dish   and   served  up  with  the 
dinner.     Likewise  the  innkeeper  was  to  pro- 
vide two  large  rich  pies  for  the  caterers  to 
take  home,  that  their  families  might  partake 
of  some  of  their  festivities.     Likewise  there 
should  be  provided  for  each  person  a  short 
silk  lace,  tagged   at  both   ends  with   silver, 
being  equipped  with  which,  they  should  all 
proceed  to   Enderby,  and  sell  the  grass   of 
"the  Wether"   to  the    best    bidder;    from 
thence  they  should  go  to  the  meadow  and 
dismount,   and   each   person    should  take    a 
small  piece  of  grass  from  the  field  and  tie  it 
round  their  tagged  lace,  and  wear  it  in  their 
hats,   and    ride   in    procession   to  the   High 
Cross   in   Leicester,  and    there  throw    them 
among  the  populace;   from  thence  proceed 
to   their   inn,   and    go   in   procession   to   St. 
Mary's  Church,  where  a  sermon  was  to  be 
preached  for  the  benefit  of  a  hospital  founded 
by   Henry,   Earl   of  Lancaster.     When    the 
service  was  over,  a  deed  should  be  read  by 
the  clergyman  concerning  the  gift,  and  the 
church    adorned    with    flowers.     When    the 
ceremony  was  concluded,  they  were  to  return 

Meadow- Mowing   Custom 

to  their  inn  to  dinner  and  close  the  day  with 
mirth  and  festivity.1 

The  ceremonies  have  somewhat  varied  in 
course  of  years,  but  the  following  account 
(slightly  abridged)  in  Leicestershire  Notes 
and  Queries  shows  that  the  main  features 
of  the  function  still  survive  : — The  caterer 
orders  lunch  at  the  inn  at  Enderby  at  1 1  A.M., 
consisting  of  flat,  stilton,  and  cream  cheese, 
butter,  various  cakes,  cucumber,  raddish, 
watercress,  &c.,  with  plenty  of  home-brewed 
ale,  which  makes  a  hearty  meal.  He  then 
proceeds  to  sell  the  grass  on  the  Wether. 
He  then,  with  the  riders,  eighteen  in  num- 
ber, proceeds  to  an  inn  in  Leicester,  where 
dinner  has  been  previously  ordered,  together 
with  a  lunch  for  ten  inmates  of  Trinity 
Hospital,  which  latter  must  consist  of  calf's- 
head,  bacon,  &c.,  and  one  quart  of  ale  each. 
When  the  riders  arrive  at  the  inn,  the  custom 
is  to  drink  from  a  quart  of  ale  before  alight- 
ing, the  oldest  of  the  Hospitallers  having 
thrown  the  bones  of  the  calf's-head  under 
the  horse  of  the  first  to  arrive.  The  riders 
are  then  shown  into  the  dining-room,  and  an 
ample  meal  is  served.  Dinner  concluded, 
two  bottles  of  brandy  are  brought,  and  all 
standing,  drink  "  to  the  immortal  memory  of 
John  o'  Gaunt."  The  table  is  then  spread 

1  Cf.  Throsby's  "  History  of  Leicester,"  quoted  by  C.  J.  Billson 
in  "  Folk-Lore  of  Leicestershire." 


Old  English   Customs 

with  dessert,  and  the  bill  having  been  called 
for,  to  see  how  far  the  money  will  hold  out, 
the  evening  is  spent  in  conviviality. 

At  the  annual  sale  of  the  grass  of  the 
Wether  the  ancient  custom  of  passing  a 
penny  round  the  table  during  the  bidding  is 
observed.  Prior  to  the  dinner  the  company 
formerly  used  to  ride  through  the  neigh- 
bouring brook,  the  Soar,  which  is  said  in 
rainy  weather  "  to  wash  the  wether's  breech," 
but  this  part  of  the  ceremony  of  the  day 
seems  to  have  been  abandoned. 

A  meadow  -  mowing  custom  prevails  at 
Desford.1  In  the  manor  there  are  eighteen 
reeve-houses,  the  owners  of  which  have  the 
reeve-meadow  annually  in  succession.  The 
reeve  for  the  year  has  to  find  a  dinner  for 
the  court  baron,  to  pay  £1  to  the  steward, 
and  to  provide  prizes  at  the  "  meadow- 
mowing,"  which  consists  of  athletic  sports  for 
the  labourers.  They  indulge  in  wrestling, 
running,  and  other  games.  No  reeve-house  is 
ever  wholly  pulled  down,  otherwise  the  owner 
loses  his  rights.  So  when  a  house  has  to  be 
rebuilt,  some  portion  of  the  old  building,  a 
chimney  or  a  doorway,  is  left  standing. 

The  harvest  is  drawing  near,  and  several 
customs  linger  on  connected  with  the  feast 
of  the  ingathering.  Agricultural  depression 
has  killed  many  of  them,  and  the  farmers 

1  Leicestershire  Notes  and  Queries. 

Harvest   Customs 

are  no  longer  able  to  dispense  that  open- 
handed  hospitality  with  which  they  were 
accustomed  to  regale  their  labourers  in  the 
good  old  days  when  agriculture  was  a  thriv- 
ing industry.  Lammas  Day,  August  ist — 
the  ancient  Loaf-mass,  when  a  loaf  of  bread 
made  of  the  first  ripe  corn  was  used  in  the 
service  of  the  Holy  Communion — remains  in 
the  calendar,  but  its  observance  as  a  feast  of 
the  first-fruits  has  passed  away.  St.  Roch's 
Day,  August  i6th,  formerly  observed  as  the 
harvest-home  day,  is  scarcely  known.  We 
have  our  harvest-festivals  in  our  churches 
now,  and  they  are  always  well  observed. 
The  churches  are  beautifully  decorated  with 
fruit  and  flowers,  and  the  villagers  always 
attend  in  large  numbers,  and  sing  with  much 
cheerfulness  and  fervour  such  hymns  as— 

"  We  plough  the  fields  and  scatter 
The  good  seed  on  the  land." 

These  harvest-festivals  are  a  fairly  modern 
institution,  but  they  have  now  become  almost 
universal,  and  few  villages  at  the  present  time 
have  no  harvest-thanksgiving  services. 

The  old  method  of  celebrating  the  feast 
of  the  ingathering  was  not  connected  with 
any  religious  observance,  and  many  curious 
customs  are  associated  with  it.  The  old 
Pagan  autumn  feast,  as  Mr.  Green  says, 
"  lingered  on  unchallenged  in  the  village 

Old  English   Customs 

harvest-home,  with  the  sheaf,  in  old  times  a 
symbol  of  the  god,  nodding  gay  with  flowers 
and  ribbons  on  the  last  waggon."  Canon 
Atkinson  states  that  we  cannot  use  the  past 
tense  even  yet  in  speaking  of  this  accom- 
paniment of  the  harvest-home,  although  the 
"  harvest-home "  is  no  longer  the  village 
festival,  but  one  that  is  celebrated  on  divers 
farms  all  comprised  in  the  same  parochial 
districts.  In  Yorkshire  the  "  mell-sheaf," 
the  "mell  -supper,"  or  "  kern  -supper,"  are 
still  well  known  in  many  a  primitive  farm- 
hold  or  hilly  daleside  occupation  throughout 
the  northern  districts.1  The  kern-supper  is 
given  to  the  labourer  by  the  farmer  on  the 
completion  of  the  cutting  of  the  corn.  Mr. 
Henderson,  in  his  "  Folk-Lore  of  North 
England  "(1879),  remarks  :  "  Our  most  char- 
acteristic festive  rejoicings  accompany  the 
harvest,  namely,  the  mell-supper  and  the  kern- 
baby.  In  the  northern  part  of  Northumber- 
land the  festival  takes  place  at  the  close  of 
the  reaping,  not  the  ingathering.  When  the 
sickle  is  laid  down,  and  the  last  sheaf  of  corn 
set  on  end,  it  is  said  that  they  have  '  got  the 
kern ; '  the  reapers  announce  the  fact  by  loud 
shouting,  and  an  image  crowned  with  wheat- 
ears,  and  dressed  in  a  white  frock  and  coloured 
ribbons,  is  hoisted  on  a  pole  by  the  tallest 

1  Cf.   "  Forty  Years    in    a    Moorland    Parish,"  by   Canon 
Atkinson,  p.  240. 


Harvest  Customs 

and  strongest  men  of  the  party.  All  circle 
round  this  'kern-baby*  or  harvest-queen, 
and  proceed  to  the  barn,  where  they  set  the 
image  on  high,  and  proceed  to  do  justice  to 
the  harvest-supper."  In  some  places  "  this 
nodding  sheaf,  the  symbol  of  the  god,"  is 
quite  small,  fashioned  with  much  care  and 
neatness,  and  plaited  with  wonderful  skill ; 
in  others  it  is  large  and  cumbersome,  taking 
a  strong  man's  strength  to  bear  it. 

In  Scotland  it  is  called  "  the  maiden,"  and 
is  dressed  like  a  doll.  It  is  preserved  in  the 
farmhouse  above  the  chimneypiece.  The 
youngest  girl  in  the  harvest-field  is  supposed 
to  have  the  privilege  of  cutting  "the  maiden." 
Its  head  is  formed  of  ears  of  oats ;  a  broad 
blue  ribband  is  tied  in  a  bow  round  the  neck, 
and  a  skirt  of  paper  completes  the  costume 
of  "the  maiden."  In  the  north-east  of 
Scotland  the  last  sheaf  is  known  as  the 
"clyack,"  or  "cailleach"  (old  woman),1  and  is 
dressed  up  and  made  to  look  as  much  like 
an  old  woman  as  possible.  It  has  a  white 
cap,  a  dress,  a  little  shawl  over  the  shoulders, 
fastened  with  a  sprig  of  heather,  an  apron 
turned  up  to  form  a  pocket,  which  is  stuffed 
with  bread  and  cheese,  and  a  sickle  is  stuck 
in  the  string  of  the  apron  at  the  back.  At 
the  harvest-feast  the  cailleach  is  placed  at  the 

1  Illustration  of  this  appears  in  Folk-Lore  of  June  1895,  and  in 
the  Transactions  of  the  Folk-Lore  Congress,  1891. 

Old  English   Customs 

head  of  the  table,  the  company  drink  to  her, 
and  in  the  evening  the  lads  dance  with  her. 
She  is  therefore  the  recipient  of  much  honour. 
Scottish  harvest  customs  are  extremely  in- 
teresting, but  we  may  only  just  venture  to  cross 
the  Tweed,  as  our  English  customs  only  con- 
cern us  now,  and  the  manners  of  our  Scottish 
neighbours  would  require  a  separate  volume. 

In  Cornwall  the  last  sheaf  is  called  "  the 
neck,"  and  is  gaily  decked  with  ribbons.  In 
some  places  two  strong-voiced  men  are  chosen, 
and  placed  one  with  the  sheaf,  and  the  other 
on  the  opposite  side  of  the  valley.  One 
shouts,  "  I've  gotten  it."  The  other  replies, 
"  What  hast  gotten  ? "  The  first  then  shouts 
back  triumphantly,  "  I've  gotten  the  neck." 

In  Devonshire,  the  home  of  many  old  cus- 
toms, a  similar  practice  prevails.  A  small 
quantity  of  the  ears  of  the  last  corn  is  twisted 
or  tied  together  into  a  curious  kind  of  figure, 
which  is  brought  home  with  great  acclama- 
tions, hung  up  over  the  table,  and  kept  till 
the  next  year.  The  owner  would  think  it 
extremely  unlucky  to  part  with  this,  which 
is  called  "  a  knack."  ' 

The  reapers  whoop  and  holloa — 

"  A  knack  !  a  knack  !  a  knack  ! 
Well  cut,  well  bound,  well  shocked." 

i  "Folk-lore  Rhymes,"  G.  F.  Northall,  p.  257.     This  word  is 
evidently  the  same  as  the  Cornish  "neck,"  mentioned  above. 


Harvest  Customs 

The  old  song  which  accompanied  the  last 
load  to  the  barn  varies  in  different  districts. 
The  usual  form  is — 

"  Harvest-home  !  harvest-home  ! 
We've  ploughed,  we've  sowed, 
We've  reaped,  we've  mowed, 
We've  brought  home  every  load. 
Hip,  hip,  hip,  harvest-home  ! " 

Or  as  they  say  in  Berkshire — 

"  Whoop,  whoop,  whoop,  harvest-whoam ! " 

Very  attractive  are  the  glimpses  of  rustic 
life  which  harvest  customs  give,  especially 
in  East  Anglia.  "  The  sun  is  setting  behind 
the  old  windmill  as  we  cross  the  field  of 
stubble ;  from  a  group  of  harvesters  comes  a 
woman  who,  with  a  low  curtsey,  asks  us  for 
*  largess.'  As  we  pass  along  we  hear  merry 
shouts  and  cheering,  and  presently  round  the 
corner  of  the  road  comes  a  fine  team  of 
horses,  mounted  by  two  lads  dressed  in  the 
garb  of  women,  while  the  waggon  is  filled 
with  the  last  load  of  corn,  and  merry  youths 
and  maidens  ride  above  it.  The  waggon 
stops,  and  the  rider  gives  us  three  cheers, 
and  then  on  they  go  to  the  village -green 
amidst  much  laughter  and  bright  songs." 
Evidently  the  East  Anglian  folk  have  not 
quite  forgotten  how  to  laugh,  as  one  of  their 
chroniclers  asserts. 


Old  English   Customs 

The  custom  is  known  locally  as  "Hallering 
Largess,"  and  has  been  described  as  a  certain 
rhythmic  chant,  rendered  with  action  and 
gesture,  and  followed  by  a  certain  number 
of  shouts,  in  return  for  gifts.  When  they 
have  received  the  offering  they  shout  thrice 
the  words,  "  Halloo,  largess,"  which  may  be 
a  corruption  of  a  la  largesse.  The  ritual 
appears  to  be  as  follows : — The  labourers 
gather  in  front  of  the  house,  and  form  a  ring 
by  joining  hands.  They  bow  their  heads 
very  low  towards  the  centre  of  the  circle,  and 
give  utterance  to  a  low  deep  mutter,  saying, 
"Hoo-Hoo-Hoo;"  then  they  jerk  their 
heads  backwards  and  utter  a  shrill  shriek  of 
"Ah!  Ah!"  repeated  several  times.  The 
Lord  of  the  Largess,  the  leader  of  the  band, 
then  cries,  "  Holla,  largess,"  which  is  echoed 
by  the  company,  and  thus  the  performance 
ends,  a  very  interesting  survival  of  old 

At  Duxford,  Cambridgeshire,  a  sheaf  of 
corn  is  placed  on  the  top  of  the  cart,  and 
the  women  rush  out  of  the  houses  and  throw 
water  on  the  returning  harvesters,  and  shout 
as  loud  as  they  can. 

The  Manx  folk  have  a  curious  custom  of 
ascending  the  hills  on  old  Lammas  Day, 
August  1 2th,  and  it  is  supposed  to  be  related 
in  some  way  to  Jephthah's  daughter  bewailing 
her  virginity  upon  the  mountains.  People 

Harvest   Customs 

who  do  not  climb  the  hills  on  that  day 
read  devoutly  the  account  of  Jephthah's 

In  Scotland  the  reapers  seize  and  "  dump  " 
any  one  who  visits  the  harvest-field.  The 
visitor  is  lifted  up  by  his  or  her  ankles  and 
armpits,  and  the  lower  part  of  his  person l  is 
brought  into  violent  contact  with  the  ground. 
"Head-money"  is  usually  demanded,  and, 
if  that  is  refused,  the  person  has  to  under- 
go the  unpleasant  experience  of  being 
"  dumped." 

The  old  custom  still  exists  at  the  parish 
church  of  Driffield,  Yorks,  of  ringing  the 
harvest-bell  at  five  o'clock  in  the  morning 
and  at  eight  in  the  evening  every  day  during 
harvest.  In  some  parishes  in  Yorkshire  it 
used  to  be  the  custom  to  ring  the  bell  at 
8  A.M.,  as  a  signal  that  people  might  begin 
to  glean. 

In  Hertfordshire  the  custom  of  horn-blow- 
ing during  harvest  still  exists,  and  seems  to 
be  peculiar  to  that  county. 

There  are  many  harvest-home  songs  in  use, 
and  here  is  one  from  Berkshire : — 

"  Here's  a  health  unto  our  master, 

The  founder  of  our  feast ; 
We  hope  his  soul  to  God  will  go 
When  he  do  get  his  rest. 

1  Cf.  "  Notes  on  Harvest  Customs  ;  "  Folk- Lore,  1889. 


Old  English   Customs 

May  everything  now  prosper 

That  he  do  take  in  hand ; 
For  we  be  all  his  servants 

As  works  at  his  command. 

(Chorus] — So  drink,  boys,  drink, 

And  see  ye  do  not  spill, 
For  if  ye  do  ye  shall  drink  two, 
For  that  be  master's  will. 

Here's  a  health  unto  our  mistress, 

That  giveth  us  good  ale ; 
We  hope  she'll  live  for  many  a  year 

To  cheer  us  without  fail. 
She  is  the  best  provider 

In  all  the  country  round ; 
So  take  your  cup  and  drink  it  up, 

None  like  her  can  be  found." 
(Chorus  as  before.} 

This  song  is  also  sung  at  Surrey  harvest- 
suppers.  Full  bumpers  of  ale  are  drunk  by 
couples  at  a  time,  as  with  a  loving-cup, 
while  the  song  is  sung,  and  if  any  is  spilt, 
the  ceremony  is  repeated  until  the  bumpers 
are  drained  of  their  contents.  {Guildford 
Newspaper. ) 

From  Surrey  we  also  have  the  following 
curious  harvest  ditty  :— 

"  I've  been  to  France,  and  I've  been  to  Dover  ; 
I've  been  roving  all  the  world  over, 

Over,  and  over,  and  over. 
Drink  half  your  liquor,  and  turn  the  bowl  over, 

Over,  and  over,  and  over." 


Harvest   Customs 

The  verse  is  sung  while  a  horn  of  ale  is  kept 
by  one  of  the  company  balanced  on  a  wooden 
bowl  held  upside  down,  and  an  endeavour  is 
made  to  drink  half  the  contents.  When  the 
ale  is  finished,  the  horn  is  tossed  up  in  the 
air  and  caught  in  the  bowl.  (Guildford 

The  harvest-home  in  the  good  old  days 
was  a  joy  and  delight  to  both  old  and  young. 
Shorn  of  much  of  its  merriment  and  quaint 
customs,  it  still  exists;  but  modern  habits  and 
notions  have  deprived  it  of  much  of  its  old 
spirit  and  light-heartedness.  In  spite  of  agri- 
cultural depression  and  diminished  income, 
it  would  be  well  to  preserve  this  feature  of 
old  country-life,  which  confers  many  benefits 
on  all.  When  labourers  simply  regard  harvest- 
time  as  a  season  when  they  can  earn  a  few 
shillings  more  than  usual,  and  take  no  further 
interest  in  their  work  or  in  the  welfare  of 
their  master,  all  brightness  vanishes  from 
their  industry ;  their  minds  become  sordid 
and  mercenary,  and  mutual  trust,  good-feel- 
ing, and  fellowship  cease  to  exist.  In  some 
places  the  only  harvest-custom  which  survives 
is  that  of  drinking  all  the  cider  or  ale  that  is 
left,  and  singing  in  the  fields  as  long  as  the 
drink  lasts. 

The  old  rejoicings  at  sheep-shearing  are 
kept  up  in  some  measure  in  Dorsetshire, 
when  the  small  farmers  invite  their  friends 

Old  English   Customs 

to  help  them  in  the  shearing,  and  entertain 
their  guests  with  accustomed  hospitality. 
This  is  a  very  ancient  custom,  which  is  alluded 
to  by  Tusser  in  his  "  Five  Hundred  Points 
of  Husbandry  "  in  the  following  lines  :— 

"  Wife,  make  us  a  dinner ;  spare  flesh,  neither  corn  ; 
Make  wafers  and  cakes,  for  our  sheep  must  be  shorn ; 
At  sheep-shearing  neighbours  none   other   things 

But  good  cheer  and  welcome  like  neighbours  to 


Roast-goose  is  still  a  standing  dish  at 
Michaelmas,  and  the  presentation  of  geese 
by  those  who  have  them  to  bestow  is  still 
often  observed — a  practice  certainly  to  be 
encouraged.  The  custom  probably  arose 
from  the  usual  practice  of  tenants  bringing 
fat  geese  to  their  landlord  when  they  paid 
their  rent,  in  order  to  propitiate  him,  and  to 
make  him  kind  and  lenient  in  the  matters  of 
rent,  repairs,  and  the  renewal  of  leases. 

One  of  the  more  curious  of  local  customs 
was  observed,  until  recent  years,  on  August 
22nd  at  Biddenham,  Bedfordshire.  In  that 
village,  shortly  before  noon,  a  little  proces- 
sion of  villagers  was  formed,  who  conveyed 
a  white  rabbit,  decorated  with  scarlet  ribbons, 
through  the  village,  singing  a  hymn  in  honour 
of  St.  Agatha.  All  the  young  unmarried 
women  who  happened  to  meet  this  proces- 

St.    Crispin  s  Day 

sion  extended  the  first  two  fingers  of  the 
left  hand,  pointing  towards  the  rabbit,  at  the 
same  time  saying— 

"  Gustin,  Gustin,  lacks  a  bier  ! 
Maidens,  maidens,  bury  him  here." 

This  custom  is  said  to  date  from  the  first 
Crusade.  It  is  certainly  curious,  and  its 
origin  is  shrouded  in  obscurity.  Several 
works  on  popular  customs  speak  of  it  as 
still  surviving ;  but  the  Vicar  of  Biddenham 
informs  us  that  the  custom  does  not  appear 
to  have  existed  during  the  lifetime  of  the 
present  inhabitants. 

October  25th,  St.  Crispin's  Day,  is  ob- 
served by  the  shoemakers  of  Scarborough, 
and  also  in  parts  of  Northumberland  and 
Sussex,  who  hold  a  dinner  on  this  feast  of 
their  patron-saint,  and  burn  flambeaux  on 
the  sands.  These  torches  are  probably  sub- 
stitutes for  the  altar  lights  which  the  Shoe- 
makers' Guild  provided  for  their  Chantry 
Chapel  in  pre-Reformation  times.  The  Re- 
formation put  out  the  lights,  but  the  torches 
and  the  dinner  remained. 

\Note.—"  Kern-baby."  Mrs.  Gomme  has 
three  specimens  of  the  kern-baby ;  one 
from  Devonshire,  one  from  Cornwall,  and 
one  from  Scotland ;  but  she  believes  that 
the  custom  has  quite  recently  died  out  in 
those  parts  of  the  country.] 



The  Fifth  of  November — Berks  songs — Beckley 
and  Ileddington,  Oxon — Town  and  Gown  at 
Oxford — Harcake  or  Tharcake,  Lancashire  — 
Local  cakes — St.  Clement's  Day — "  Souling"  on 
All  Souls'  Day — Allan  apples  at  Pcnzance — 
Butchers'  custom. 

OUR  historical  customs,  or  customs  which 
owe  their  origin  to  events  in  the  history  of 
our  country,  are  not  very  numerous.  Besides 
Royal  Oak  Day,  which  has  already  been  de- 
scribed, we  have  the  famous  commemoration 
of  the  discovery  of  Gunpowder  Plot  on 
November  5th.  This  is  a  very  popular  fes- 
tival, when  bonfires  are  lighted  everywhere, 
and  "guys"-— a  perpetual  memorial  of  the 
famous  Guy  Fawkes— are  burnt  with  much 
accompaniment  of  squibs  and  crackers. 

Probably  few  of  those  who  take  part  in  these 
functions  recall  to  mind  that  November  5th 
was  instituted  by  the  House  of  Commons  as 
"  a  holiday  for  ever  in  thankfulness  to  God 
for  our  deliverance  and  detestation  of  the 
Papists ; "  but  this  ignorance  does  not  pre- 
vent them  from  keeping  up  the  custom  and 
1 60 

Guy  Fawkes  Day 

enjoying  the  excitement  of  the  bonfire  and 

The  usual  rhyme  which  the  youths  repeat 
when  they  carry  round  the  guy  and  collect 
fuel  for  their  bonfires  or  largess  for  them- 
selves is  as  follows  : — 

"  Please  to  remember  the  Fifth  of  November, 

Gunpowder  treason  and  plot ; 
I  see  no  reason  why  gunpowder  treason 
Should  ever  be  forgot." 

A   common  variation  of  the  last  two  lines 
is — 

"  When  the  king  and  his  train  had  nearly  been  slain, 
Therefore  it  shall  not  be  forgot." 

The     Berkshire     boys     used     to     add    the 
words : — 

"  Our  king's  a  valiant  soldier 

With  his  blunderbuss  on  his  shoulder ; 

Cocks  his  pistol,  draws  his  rapier ; 

Pray  give  us  something  for  his  sake  here. 

A  stick  and  a  stake,  for  our  good  king's  sake. 

If  you  won't  give  one,  I'll  take  two ; 

The  better  for  me,  the  worse  for  you. 
Chorus — 

Holloa,  boys,  holloa,  boys,  make  the  bells  ring ; 
Holloa,  boys,  holloa,  boys,  God  save  the  Queen." 

"  King "   is  evidently  the   correct  rhyme 
for   "  ring,"    but    on    the   accession    of  her 
161  L 

Old  English   Customs 

Majesty  Queen  Victoria  the  correctness  of 
the  poetry  was  sacrificed  to  the  appropriate- 
ness of  the  address  to  the  reigning  sovereign. 
Some  of  the  rhymes  tell  us  of  the  nefarious 
deeds  of  wicked  Guy  Fawkes,  and  the  follow- 
ing, we  believe,  is  still  extant : — 

"  Guy  Fawkes  and  his  companions  did  contrive 
To  blow  the  House  of  Parliament  up  alive 
With  threescore  barrels  of  powder  down  below, 
To  prove  Old  England's  wicked  overthrow ; 
But  by  God's  mercy  all  of  them  got  catched, 
With  their  dark  lantern  and  their  lighted  match. 
Ladies  and  gentlemen  sitting  by  the  fire, 
Please  put  hands  in  pockets  and  give  us  our 

desire ; 

While  you  can  drink  one  glass,  we  can  drink  two, 
The  better  for  we,  and  none  the  worse  for  you." 
Rumour,  rumour,  pump  a  deny, 
Prick  his  heart  and  burn  his  body, 
And  send  his  soul  to  Purgatory." 

From  Beckley,  Oxon,  we  have  the  follow- 
ing rhyme,  which  is  still  said  by  the  youths 
when  collecting  wood  for  their  fire  :— 

"  Don't  you  know  'tis  the  Fifth  of  November, 
Gunpowder  Plot  ?     We've  come  to  beg 
A  stick  or  a  stake, 
For  King  George's  sake. 
If  you  don't  give  us  one, 

We'll  take  two ; 
Then  ricket  a  racket, 
Your  door  shall  go." 

Guy  Fawkes  Day 

At  Heading  ton,  in  the  same  county,  the 
boys  sing  the  following  verses  : — 

"  Remember,  remember, 
The  Fifth  of  November, 

Bonfire  night ; 
We  want  a  faggot 

To  make  it  alight. 
Hatchets  and  duckets, 

Beetles  and  wedges, 
If  you  don't  give  us  some 

We'll  pull  your  old  hedges ; 
If  you  don't  give  us  one, 

We'll  take  two ; 
The  better  for  us, 

And  the  worse  for  you." 

A  slight  menace  is  very  common  in  these 
Gunpowder  Plot  ditties.  At  several  places 
at  the  present  time  it  is  customary  to  cele- 
brate Guy  Fawkes  Day  with  much  elaborate 
ceremonial,  torchlight  processions,  composed 
of  people  in  very  fancy  dress  costume.  The 
display  of  fireworks  in  many  towns  is  very 
grand  and  elaborate.  At  Hampstead  very 
elaborate  preparations  are  made ;  several 
bonfire  clubs  combine  in  making  the  display 
effective,  and  the  procession  is  usually  very 
picturesque  and  imposing.  One  car  at  the 
last  celebration,  representing  the  British  Isles 
and  the  Colonies,  with  attendant  beefeaters 
and  pages,  was  sent  by  Sir  Augustus  Harris. 

On    the    South    Coast    these    observances 


Old  English   Customs 

are  usual  in  several  towns.  At  Rye  the 
"  Borough  Bonfire  Boys "  organise  a  pro- 
cession, light  bonfires,  and  burn  effigies.  At 
Folkstone  the  procession  consists  of  carts 
and  waggons,  gaily  decorated,  and  containing 
tableaux  vivants,  contributed  by  the  Friendly 
Society.  The  Ancient  Order  of  Druids  send 
a  party  representing  the  Ancient  Britons. 
A  blacksmith's  forge,  a  butcher's  car,  fire 
brigades,  and  other  shows,  make  up  the  pro- 
cession, and  torches  and  Chinese  lanterns,  and 
bands  of  music,  add  brightness  to  the  festival. 
At  Marylebone  and  Bermondsey  the  bonfire 
clubs  are  much  in  evidence.  Political  guys 
are  not  unknown,  and  at  the  last  occasion 
the  Sultan  of  Turkey  thrashing  a  poor  Ar- 
menian was  one  of  the  representations.  In 
the  old  Middlesex  suburban  town  of  EnfieJd 
a  huge  fancy-dress  procession  is  formed  on 
the  evening  of  Guy  Fawkes  Day ;  thousands 
of  people  throng  the  streets,  and  fires  of  all 
colours  blaze  along  the  line  of  route.  Groups 
allegorical  of  local  traditions  associated  with 
the  old  Enfield  chase,  Colonel  Somerset's  stag- 
hounds,  the  Herts  Yeomanry,  fire  brigades, 
and  schools,  form  interesting  features  in  the 
long  procession.  Money  is  collected  for  the 
Cottage  Hospital,  and  a  monster  bonfire  is 
lighted  on  the  green  and  the  traditional  guy 

The   almost  universal    observance  of  the 

Town   and  Gown  at   Oxford 

day,  and  the  similarity  of  the  modes  of  com- 
memorating the  discovery  of  the  Gunpowder 
Plot,  obviate  the  necessity  of  recording  the 
manners  and  customs  of  the  English  people 
on  this  occasion. 

At  Oxford,  the  "  Town  and  Gown  "  rows 
on  November  5th,  though  shorn  of  some  of 
their  ferocity,  are  not  quite  things  of  the 
past,  and  the  College  authorities  have  recently 
adopted  the  fashion  of  "  gating  "  their  men, 
in  order  to  prevent  the  usual  encounters. 
Why  on  this  particular  night  the  gentlemen 
of  the  University  and  the  roughs  of  the  town 
should  seek  to  engage  in  deadly  conflict  and 
fight  and  bruise  each  other,  is  one  of  the 
mysteries  of  civilisation.  One  is  not  alto- 
gether surprised  to  read  of  the  stern  battles 
of  mediaeval  times,  when  there  was  much 
antagonism  between  Town  and  Gown,  and  the 
butchers  fought  with  their  cleavers,  and  were 
therefore  compelled  to  set  up  their  shops 
outside  the  city  walls,  and  when  the  tower  of 
Carfax  Church  was  obliged  to  be  taken  down, 
as  it  became  a  point  of  vantage  for  the  belli- 
gerents. But  why  these  contests  should  be 
carried  on  in  the  nineteenth  century,  and 
waged  only  on  the  night  of  the  famous  Fifth, 
are  questions  which  no  one  seems  able  to 

In  Lancashire,  in  the  neighbourhood  of 
Oldham,  it  is  still  the  custom  at  the  begin- 

Old  English   Customs 

ning  of  November  to  make  what  is  called 
Harcake.  The  origin  of  this  custom  is  lost 
in  the  mists  of  antiquity.  It  is  probably  a 
relic  of  an  ancient  pagan  festival.  Har  was 
one  of  the  names  of  Odin,  and  the  word 
appears  in  many  place-names  in  the  neigh- 
bourhood, e.g.)  Harrof,  Hargrave,  Hargate, 
&c.  In  this  making  of  harcake  there  is 
doubtless  preserved  the  memorial  of  an  old 
Norse  festival. 

In  Nodal  and  Milner's  "  Lancashire  Glos- 
sary "  the  word  is  given  as  Tharcake  ;  but  this 
need  not  sever  its  connection  with  Northern 
mythology,  as  Tharcake  or  Thor-cake  sug- 
gests the  name  of  the  deity  in  whose  honour 
the  special  cake  was  eaten.  It  is  a  kind  of 
oatmeal  gingerbread,  made  of  meal,  treacle, 
and  butter,  and  is  sometimes  called  parkins. 

The  whole  subject  of  special  local  cakes  is 
full  of  interest.  There  are  the  Eccles  cakes, 
made  at  Eccles,  in  Lancashire,  which  resemble 
the  famous  cakes  of  Banbury.  Bath  is  famous 
for  its  buns  as  well  as  its  waters,  and  Rich- 
mond for  its  maids -of -honour.  Everton 
boasts  of  its  toffy,  and  Shrewsbury  of  its 
cakes,  alluded  to  in  Shenstone's  "  Schoolmis- 
tress "  when  he  sings — 

"  Ah !  midst  the  rest,  may  flowers  adorn  his  grave 
Whose  art  did  first  these  dulcet  cates  display." 

The  eve  of  All  Saints'  Day  (November  ist), 


anciently  called  All-Hallow  Eve,  was  a  great 
night  for  the  witches,  especially  in  Lancashire  ; 
but  the  old  beldames  have  fled  away  on  their 
broomsticks,  and  old  customs  have  gone  with 
them.  But  on  All  Souls'  Day,  November  2nd 
which  was  first  instituted  in  the  monastery  of 
Clugny  in  993  A.D.,  it  is  still  customary  for 
children  to  go  "  a-souling,"  and  soul-cakes 
are  still  offered  and  eaten  in  Shropshire  on 
this  day.  One  of  the  numerous  versions  of 
the  "  soulers  "  is  as  follows  : — 

"  Soul !  soul !  for  a  soul-cake ! 
I  pray,  good  missis,  a  soul-cake ! 
An  apple,  a  pear,  a  plum,  or  a  cherry, 
Any  good  thing  to  make  us  merry. 
One  for  Peter,  two  for  Paul, 
Three  for  Him  who  made  us  all. 
Up  with  the  kettle  and  down  with  the  pan, 
Give  us  good  alms  and  we'll  be  gone. 

"  The  roads  are  very  dirty, 

My  shoes  are  very  thin, 
I've  got  a  little  pocket 

To  put  a  penny  in. 
If  you  haven't  got  a  penny, 

A  ha'penny  will  do  ; 
If  you  haven't  got  a  ha'penny, 

May  God  help  you." 

This  is  sung  at  Wellington,  Salop. 

There  are  many  variants  of  these  rhymes,1 
which  need  not  be  enumerated.    Let  it  suffice 

1  Cf.  "  English  Folk-Rhymes,"  p.  220. 


Old  English   Customs 

to  mention   one  Staffordshire  rhyme,  which 
runs  as  follows  : — 

"  Soul-day,  soul-day, 

We've  been  praying  for  the  soul  departed ; 
So  pray,  good  people,  give  us  a  cake, 
For  we  are  all  poor  people, 
Well  known  to  you  before  ; 
So  give  us  a  cake  for  charity's  sake, 
And  our  blessing  we'll  leave  at  your  door. 

Soul !  soul !  for  an  apple  or  two ; 

If  you  have  no  apples  pears  will  do  ; 

If  pears  are  scarce,  then  cakes  from  your  pan, 

Give  us  our  souling,  and  we'll  be  gone." x 

A  curious  rhyme  is  given  in  Shropshire 
Folk-lore  which  is  still  sung  or  drawled  :— 

"  The  cock  sat  in  the  yew  tree, 

The  hen  came  chuckling  by, 
I  wish  you  all  good  morning, 
And  a  good  fat  pig  in  the  sty. 
A  good  fat  pig  in  the  sty  ! " 

"  Souling  "  still  lingers  on  in  Cheshire. 

The  Day  of  St.  Clement  (November  23rd), 
the  patron  saint  of  blacksmiths,  is  still  ob- 
served, and  St.  Clement  Danes'  Church, 
London,  has  his  emblem,  an  anchor,  for  its 
vane.  There  are  many  legends  concerning 
the  connection  of  "  Old  Clem "  with  the 
craft,  which  need  not  now  be  recorded.  One 
of  these  relates  to  the  time  of  King  Alfred, 
who  made  St.  Clement  king  of  all  other 

1  Poole's"  Customs,  Legends,  and  Superstitions  of  Staffordshire." 


St.   Clement's  Day 

tradesfolk.  An  old  traditional  song,  called 
the  "  Jolly  Blacksmith,"  is  said  to  have  been 
sung  on  the  occasion,  and  is  very  spirited  :— 

"  Here's  a  health  to  jolly  blacksmith, 

The  best  of  all  good  fellows, 
Who  works  at  his  anvil 

While  the  boy  blow  the  bellows. 
For  it  makes  his  bright  hammer  to  rise  and  to  fall, 
Says  the  old  cob  to  the  young  cob  and  the  old  cob 

of  all. 
Chorus.  Twankie  dillo,  twankie  dillo,  dillo,  dillo,  dillo, 

dillo,  dillo, 

With  a  roaring  pair  of  bagpipes  made  of  the  green 

The  children  in  East  Sussex  still  go  Cat- 
terning  and  Clemmening,  and  the  black- 
smiths do  not  forget  the  day.  They  used 
to  dress  up  a  figure  of  "  Old  Clem,"  and 
put  him  in  front  of  the  inn  where  they  held 
their  feast.  The  rhyme  sung  in  Sussex  is— 

"  Cattern' ]  and  Clemen'  be  here,  here,  here, 
Give  us  your  apples  and  give  us  your  beer ; 
One  for  Peter,  two  for  Paul, 
Three  for  Him  who  made  us  all. 
Clemen'  was  a  good  man, 
Cattern'  was  his  mother : 
Give  us  your  best, 
And  not  your  worst, 
And  God  will  give  your  soul  good  rest." 

1  Cattern'  =  St.  Catherine,  whose  feast  is  November  25th, 
formerly  much  observed  by  the  Buckinghamshire  lacemakers. 

Old  English   Customs 

In  the  Government  dockyards  "Old  Clem" 
is  still  revered,  and  his  figure  is  dressed  up ; 
the  masters  often  give  the  blacksmiths  a 
wayz-goose,  a  leg  of  pork  stuffed  with  sage 
and  onions,  on  this  day.  At  the  feast  the 
first  toast  is — 

"  Here's  to  old  Vulcan,  as  bold  as  a  lion, 
A  large  shop  and  no  iron, 
A  big  hearth  and  no  coal, 
And  a  large  pair  of  bellows  full  of  holes." 

The  Jolly  Blacksmith's  song  is  always  sung. 
The  next  toast  is — 

"  True  hearts  and  sound  bottoms, 
Checked  shirts  and  leather  aprons." 

Then  follows  a  song  beginning — 

"  Tubal  Cain,  our  ancient  father, 

Sought  the  earth  for  iron  and  ore ; 
More  precious  than  the  glittering  gold, 
Be  it  ever  so  great  a  store." 

"  To  the  memory  of  '  Old  Clem/  and 
prosperity  to  all  his  descendants,"  is  the 
toast  of  the  evening. 

The  Brighton  Railway  Company's  smiths 
have  in  recent  years  observed  these  customs. 
At  the  White  Horse  Inn,  Castle  Street, 
London,  a  supper  is  held,  and  "  Old  Clem's" 
memory  duly  recorded.  One  of  the  farriers 
is  dressed  in  a  new  apron  with  gilt  tags. 

Allan  Apples 

The  anvils  used  to  be  fired  with  gunpowder, 
but  this  part  of  the  ceremonial  has  now  been 

"  Going  a-gooding  "  on  St.  Clement's  Day * 
is  still  practised  at  Market  Bosworth,  Leices- 
tershire. The  boys  go  round  collecting  apples 
and  money,  and  sing  a  rhyme  very  similar  to 
one  already  quoted.  It  runs — 

"  St.  Clement's,  St.  Clement's,  St.  Clement's  is  here ; 
Apples  and  pears  are  very  good  cheer ; 
One  for  Peter  (the  rest  as  before)" 

On  the  nearest  Saturday  to  Hallow  E'en 
the  fruiterers  of  Penzance  display  in  their 
windows  very  large  apples,  known  locally  as 
"  Allan "  apples.  The  eating  of  them  is 
supposed  to  bring  good  luck,  and  the  girls 
put  them  under  their  pillows  in  order  to 
dream  of  their  sweethearts. 

The  same  custom  with  some  variations  pre- 
vails at  St.  Ives,  in  the  same  county.  "  Allan 
Day  "  is  a  great  children's  festival,  and  hun- 
dreds would  deem  it  a  great  misfortune  to 
go  to  bed  on  Allan  night  without  the  time- 
honoured  Allan-apple  beneath  their  pillows. 
They  fully  expect  to  dream  of  the  future 
husband  or  wife,  the  fulfilment  of  the  dream 
depending  on  the  silence  observed  before 
eating  the  apple.  The  full  ritual  involves 

1  Billson's  "Folk-Lore  of  Leicestershire." 

Old  English   Customs 

rising  before  dawn  and  sitting  under  a  tree, 
clad  in  the  nightdress  only,  and  then  eating 
the  Allan  apple.  Two  results  are  then  due ; 
the  future  husband  or  wife  becomes  present, 
and  if  (there  is  a  great  virtue  in  the  "if") 
the  sitter  be  not  cold,  then  he  or  she  will 
not  be  cold  during  the  winter.  The  peni- 
tential ritual  has  however  happily  fallen  into 

A  curious  custom  of  taking  a  marrow- 
bone from  the  butchers  was  formerly  prac- 
tised at  Camborne  on  the  Sunday  nearest  to 
Martinmas,  and  has  now  been  revived.  A 
number  of  men,  known  as  the  "  Homage 
Committee,"  go  round  the  market  with  ham- 
pers, which  are  soon  filled  with  marrow-bones, 
and  afterwards  visit  the  public-house  as 
"  tasters."  One  night  in  November  is  known 
in  Padstow  as  "Skip-skop  night,"  when  the 
boys  in  the  place  go  about  with  a  stone  in  a 
sling,  with  which  they  strike  violently  the 
doors  of  the  houses,  and  ask  for  money  to 
make  a  feast. 

Butchers  still  in  some  few  places  keep  up 
the  custom  of  serenading  a  newly  married 
couple  of  their  own  trade  with  the  "  marrow 
bones  and  cleavers."  This  serenade  takes 
place  on  the  eve  of  the  marriage  night, 
outside  the  house  of  the  newly  married  pair, 
in  return  for  which  the  serenaders  expect 
money  or  ale  and  cake. 


Local  customs — Gloves  in  Church  of  Abbots  Ann, 
Andover  —  Dunmotv  Flitch  —  Skimmerton-riding 
in  Wilts  and  Dorset — Riding  the  Stang. 

VERY  remarkable  are  many  of  the  local 
customs  which  linger  on  in  some  of 
our  towns  and  villages,  and  which  are 
not  confined  to  any  special  day  in  the 

At  Abbots  Ann,  near  Andover,  it  is  the 
custom  to  hang  effigies  of  hands  and  arms 
near  the  pulpit  of  the  church  on  the  left- 
hand  side  of  the  nave,  outside  the  chancel 
arch,  in  memory  of  any  girl  who  died  un- 
married. On  the  right  of  the  arch  chaplets 
are  hung.  These  effigies  are  probably  imita- 
tions of  gloves,  as  in  early  times  it  was 
not  unusual  to  hang  up  in  the  churches 
mittens  or  gloves  at  funerals.  Nor  was 
the  custom  confined  to  the  memorials  of 
the  dead. 

Sometimes  to  hang  up  a  glove  in  a  church 
was  the  authorised  method  of  challenging  a 
rival  to  mortal  combat.  Sir  Walter  Scott  in 

Old  English   Customs 

his   "  Rokeby " *  alludes  to  this  practice   in 
the  lines — 

"  Edmund,  thy  years  were  scarcely  nine 
When  challenging  the  clans  of  Tyne 
To  bring  their  best  my  brand  to  prove, 
O'er  Hexham's  altar  hung  my  glove ; 
But  Tynedale  nor  in  tower  nor  town 
Held  champion  meet  to  take  it  down." 

In  the  Life  of  Barnard  Gilpin  (1517- 
1583),  Rector  of  Hough ton-le-Spring,  it  is 
recorded  that  on  entering  his  church  the 
worthy  man  observed  a  glove  hanging  up, 
and  was  informed  by  the  sexton  that  it  was 
meant  as  a  challenge  to  any  one  who  would 
take  it  down.  The  vicar  removed  the  glove, 
and  admonished  his  congregation  on  the 
wickedness  of  such  savage  practices.  {Notes 
and  Queries.} 

The  custom  of  hanging  up  in  the  churches 
garlands  of  roses  with  a  pair  of  gloves  cut 
out  of  white  paper,  which  had  been  carried 
before  the  corpses  of  young  unmarried 
women  at  their  funerals,  used  to  prevail  in 
many  parishes  in  Derbyshire.  However, 
during  recent  years  they  have  almost  all  been 
removed.  We  understand  that  the  garlands 
are  still  hanging  in  Ashover  Church,  and 
possibly  at  Flamborough,  Yorkshire.  The 
practice  seems  to  have  been  very  general  in 

1  Canto  vi.  21. 

Dun  mow  Flitch 

the  seventeenth  and  eighteenth  centuries, 
and  lingered  long  in  Derbyshire.  The  fol- 
lowing lines  attributed  to  Anna  Seward 
refer  to  the  custom  : — 

"  The  gloves  suspended  by  the  garland's  side, 
White  as  its  snowy  flowers  with  ribband  tied ; 
Dear  village !  long  may  these  wreaths  funereal 

spread — 
Simple  memorials  of  the  early  dead." 

The  Dunmow  Flitch  is  a  well-known  matri- 
monial prize  for  which  happy  couples  who 
have  never  quarrelled  during  the  first  year 
of  their  wedded  life  strive  to  establish  their 
claims  before  an  impartial  jury  composed  of 
six  maidens  and  six  bachelors.  There  is  a 
judge  arrayed  in  a  full-bottom  wig,  and 
advocates  plead  for  and  against  the  claims 
of  the  suitors.  The  examination  and  cross- 
examination  of  the  claimants  usually  occasion 
much  mirth,  and  when  the  couples  are  pro- 
nounced worthy  of  the  flitch,  they  are  chaired 
and  carried  round  the  meadow,  finally  halting 
at  an  open-air  stage,  where  they  publicly  take 
the  customary  oath,  kneeling  on  rough  stones. 

This  custom  has  not  been  observed  con- 
tinuously. For  several  years  it  entirely 
lapsed,  until  in  1855  the  historical  novelist 
Harrison  Ainsworth  revived  the  custom  and 
presented  the  prize.  He  wrote  a  novel 
entitled  "  The  Flitch  of  Bacon."  The  fol- 

Old  English   Customs 

lowing  record  of  the  proceedings  in  the  year 
1701  is  full  of  interest : — 



Nuper  Priorat. 

At  a  court  barren  of  the  right  wor- 
shippful  Sir  Thomas  May,  Knight, 
then  holden  on  Friday,  the 

da^  of  June'  in  the  ^r  of  our  Lord 
1701,  before  Thomas  Wheeler,  Gent, 

steward  of  the  said  manor,  it  was 
thus  enrolled  : 

/Elizabeth  Beaumont,  spinster 
"  Homage     <  Henriette  Beaumont,  spinster 

i  •    •«• 

lAnnabella  Beaumont,  spinster 

Jane  Beaumont,  spinster 
Mary  Chester,  spinster 


"  Be  it  remembered  that  at  this  court  it  is 
found  and  presented  by  homage  aforesaid, 
that  William  Parsley  and  Jane  his  wife  have 
been  married  for  the  space  of  three  years  last 
past,  and  it  is  likewise  found  that  William 
Parsley  and  Jane  his  wife,  by  means  of  their 
quiet  and  peaceable,  tender  and  loving  coha- 
bitation for  the  space  of  three  years  aforesaid, 
are  fit  and  qualified  persons  to  be  admitted 
by  the  court  to  receive  the  ancient  and 
accustomed  oath,  whereby  to  entitle  them- 
selves to  have  the  bacon  of  Dunmow  delivered 
unto  them  according  to  the  custom  of  the 
manor.  Whereupon  at  this  court  in  full 
and  open  court  came  the  said  William 
Parsley  and  Jane  his  wife  in  their  persons, 
and  humbly  prayed  that  they  might  be  per- 

Dunmow  Flitch 

mitted  to  take  the  oath.  Whereupon  the 
steward  and  the  jury  and  other  officers  pro- 
ceeding with  the  usual  solemnity  to  the 
ancient  and  accustomed  place  for  the  admini- 
stration of  the  oath  and  receiving  the  said 
bacon ;  that  is  to  say,  two  great  stones  lying 
near  the  church  door,  where  the  said  William 
Parsley  and  Jane  kneeling  down  on  the  two 
stones,  the  said  steward  did  administer  the  oath 
in  these  words,  or  to  the  effect  following — 

"  '  You  do  swear  by  custom  of  confession, 
That  you  never  made  nuptial  transgression, 
Nor  since  you  were  married  man  and  wife 
By  household  brawls  or  contentious  strife, 
Or  otherwise  at  bed  or  board, 
Offended  each  other  in  deed  or  word. 
Or  in  a  twelvemonth's  time  and  a  day 
Repented  not  in  thought  anyway, 
Or  since  the  church  clerk  said  Amen 
Wished  yourselves  unmarried  again, 
But  continue  true  and  in  desire 
As  when  you  joined  hands  in  the  quire.' 

"  And  immediately  thereupon  William  Par- 
sley and  Jane  Parsley,  claiming  the  said  bacon, 
the  court  pronounced  sentence  for  the  same  in 
these  words,  or  to  the  effect  following — 

"  *  Since  to  these  conditions  without  any  fear 
Of  your  own  accord  you  do  freely  swear, 
A  whole  gammon  of  bacon  you  do  receive 
And  bear  it  away  with  love  and  good  leave ; 
For  this  is  the  custom  of  Dunmow  well  known  ; 
Though  the  pleasure  be  ours,  the  bacon's  your  own.' 
177  M 

Old  English   Customs 

And  accordingly  a  gammon  of  bacon  was 
delivered  unto  the  said  William  Parsley  and 
Jane  Parsley  with  the  usual  solemnity. 

Exd  pr-  Th°-  Wheeler,  gent,  steward, 
Willm  Hague."  1701  (William  III.). 
The  Spectator  observed  with  some  cynical 
reflection  that  when  the  bacon  was  first  given 
away  only  two  couples  successfully  formu- 
lated their  claims.  The  first  couple  was  a 
sea-captain  and  his  wife,  who  had  not  seen 
each  other  after  their  wedding  until  the  day 
the  prize  was  awarded ;  the  second  was  an 
honest  pair  who  resided  in  the  neighbour- 
hood of  Dunmow,  the  husband  being  a  man 
of  plain  good  sense  and  a  peaceable  temper — 
the  woman  was  dumb.  A  recent  claimant 
was  a  Yeoman  of  the  Royal  Bodyguard,  over 
sixty  years  of  age,  and  the  bravery  which 
carried  him  through  the  Crimea  and  the 
Indian  Mutiny  assisted  him  doubtless  in 
undergoing  the  trial  of  procuring  the  Dun- 
mow  Flitch. 

Those  who  are  not  so  fortunate  in  their 
pursuit  of  matrimonial  bliss  have  sometimes 
most  unpleasant  experiences  to  undergo.  In 
cases  of  great  scandal  and  immorality  the 
villagers  take  the  law  into  their  own  hands, 
and  organise  a  serenade  of  rough  music  in 
order  to  express  their  disapproval.  It  is 
called  a  Skimmenton  or  Skimmenton-Riding 
in  Wilts,  or  sometimes  Housset,  Hooset,  or 


Wooset.  In  Berks  the  "Hooset"  is  a 
draped  horse's-head,  carried  at  a  "  Hooset 
Hunt."  The  orthodox  procedure  in  North 
Wilts  on  the  occasion  of  a  Skimmenton  is  as 
follows : — The  party  assembles  before  the 
house  of  the  offenders,  armed  with  tin  pots 
and  pans,  and  perform  a  serenade  for  three 
successive  nights.  Then  after  an  interval  of 
three  nights  the  serenade  is  repeated  for 
three  more.  Then  another  interval  of  the 
same  duration,  and  a  third  repetition  of  the 
rough  music  for  three  nights.  On  the  last 
night  the  effigies  of  the  offenders  are  burned. 
The  word  and  the  custom  have  emigrated  to 
America.  It  is  the  strongest  expression  of 
outraged  public  opinion  that  a  country  dis- 
trict is  capable  of  conveying.  It  checks  open 
profligacy,  brands  with  infamy  all  gross  in- 
stances of  licentiousness,  and  exposes  to 
ridicule  those  couples  who  by  their  quarrels 
disturb  the  quiet  and  order  of  the  neigh- 
bourhood. The  three  causes  for  riding  the 
Skimmenton  are — (i.)  When  a  man  and  his 
wife  quarrel,  and  he  gives  up  to  her;  (ii.) 
when  a  woman  is  unfaithful  to  her  husband, 
and  he  patiently  submits  without  resenting 
her  conduct ;  (iii.)  any  grossly  licentious  con- 
duct on  the  part  of  married  persons.  In  the 
neighbourhood  of  Dorking,  Surrey,  this  kind 
of  rough  music  is  common. 

In  Dorsetshire  it  is  called  Skimmington ; 

Old  English   Customs 

in  Scotland  "  Riding  the  stang,"  the  peccant 
party  being  seated  across  a  pole  (or  stang)  in 
no  very  comfortable  position.  Sometimes 
they  used  to  sweep  the  doors  of  those  whom 
they  threatened  with  similar  discipline.  A 
few  years  ago  a  famous  Skimmerton  took 
place  at  Whitechurch  Canonicorum,  West 
Dorset.  In  the  dusk  of  the  evening  a  strange 
noise  was  heard  of  the  beating  of  trays  and 
kettles,  and  three  grotesquely  attired  figures 
were  escorted  by  a  procession  of  persons  in 
various  eccentric  costumes,  who  paraded  the 
village.  The  figures  represented  three  per- 
sons well  known  to  the  villagers,  a  male  and 
two  females.  The  latter  were  carried  by 
donkeys,  and  one  had  a  very  long  tongue 
tied  back  to  the  neck.  After  their  peram- 
bulations the  processionists  conveyed  their 
figures  to  a  field  where  a  gallows  was  erected, 
on  which  the  effigies  were  hung  and  after- 
wards burnt.1  Mr.  Thomas  Hardy  has  im- 
mortalised a  Skimmerton-riding  in  his  novel 
entitled  "  The  Mayor  of  Casterbridge." 

"  Riding  the  stang "  '  was  once  a  very 
popular  custom  in  the  North  of  England. 
At  the  Langwathby  Rounds,  recently  a 
flourishing  village  festival,  all  who  were 
found  at  work  on  the  day  of  the  feast  had 

1  Proceedings  of  Dorset  Field  Club,  vol.  xiv.  p.  182. 

2  Derived  from  the  Saxon  word  steng  (Danish  stang),  signify- 
ing a  long  bar  or  pole. 

I  80 

Riding   the   Stang 

to  ride  the  stang  or  pay  a  forfeit.  The 
amenities  of  Northallerton  still  include  the 
time  -  honoured  corrective  of  riding  the 
stang.  A  few  years  ago  an  occasion  for  the 
exercise  of  this  forcible  expression  of  public 
opinion  was  furnished  by  an  ostler  who  had 
proved  unfaithful  to  his  recently  married 
bride.  In  a  small  pony-cart  an  effigy  was 
placed,  and  the  ringing  of  a  bell  and  the 
shouts  of  the  populace  created  much  excite- 
ment. This  was  continued  for  three  nights, 
and  on  the  last  the  final  riding  of  the  stang 
took  place.  Two  figures  were  placed  in  the 
cart,  and  carried  round  the  town,  after 
which  a  bonfire  was  lit  on  the  green  below 
the  church,  and  after  repeating  a  doggrel 
rhyme,  the  crowd  proceeded  to  burn  the 
figures.  It  is  not  often,  we  hope,  that  the 
necessity  for  a  genuine  Skimmenton  or  rid- 
ing the  stang  arises,  and  the  custom  is  of 
course  intermittent ;  but  offenders  would  be 
wise  not  to  assume  that  this  notable  ex- 
pression of  public  opinion  has  quite  passed 



Holy  wells — Scottish  superstition — Pin-wells — 
Rag-wells — Well-dressing  in  Derbyshire — Tis- 
sington  well  -  dressing — Endon,  Staffordshire — 
Youlgrave,  Derbyshire — St.  Alkmund's,  Derby 
—  Wishing-wells —  Walsingham,  Norfolk. 

MANY  folk  customs  linger  around  wells 
and  springs.  They  are  the  haunts  of  the 
nymphs  and  sylvan  deities,  who  must  be 
propitiated  by  votive  offerings,  and  are  re- 
vengeful when  neglected.  They  cure  all 
manner  of  diseases,  and  the  genius  loci  must 
be  reverenced  with  humility  and  conciliated 
by  gifts  in  order  that  wishes  may  be  grati- 
fied and  cures  effected.  Town-folk  may  be 
ignorant  of  the  virtues  of  holy  wells,  but  in 
rural  districts,  where  old  customs  linger,  they 
are  not  yet  forgotten.  Amidst  the  sights 
and  sounds  of  nature  men  are  prone  to 
cherish  the  beliefs  and  customs  of  their  fore- 
fathers. In  Scotland  this  is  more  especially 
the  case,  and  the  adoration  of  wells  may  be 
encountered  in  all  parts  of  the  country  from 
John  o'  Groats  to  the  Mull  of  Galloway.1 

i  "  Past  in  the  Present,"  Sir  Arthur  Mitchell. 

Holy   Wells 

Sir  Arthur  Mitchell  states  that  he  has  seen 
at  least  a  dozen  wells  in  Scotland  which  have 
not  ceased  to  be  worshipped.  The  cure  of 
children  is  a  special  virtue  of  many  of  these 
wells.  Anxious  mothers  make  long  journeys 
to  some  well  of  fame,  bathe  the  little  invalid 
in  its  waters,  drop  an  offering  into  them,  and 
attach  a  bit  of  the  child's  dress  to  a  bush 
or  a  tree  growing  by  the  side  of  the  well. 
Pins  and  nails  and  bits  of  rag  may  constantly 
be  seen  in  all  parts  of  the  Highlands  at 
these  hallowed  springs.1  In  England  too  this 
custom  is  not  unknown.  There  is  a  Rag 
well  near  Newcastle,  so  called  from  the 
number  of  shreds  of  clothing  that  adorn  the 
bushes  at  its  side.  On  Holy  Thursday  the 
fair  maids  of  Cornwall  visit  St.  Roche's  Well, 
and  throw  crooked  pins  or  pebbles  into  the 
water,  and  by  the  bubbles  that  rise  to  the 
surface  seek  to  ascertain  whether  their  sweet- 
hearts will  be  true  or  false.  The  same  kind 
of  divination  is  practised  also  at  Madron 
Well,  near  Penzance,  once  very  famous  on 
account  of  the  cures  wrought  by  its  waters. 
In  Ireland,  too,  these  votive  offerings  to  the 
spirits  of  the  streams  may  still  be  seen,  and 
in  Wales,  Professor  Rhys  states  that  there 
is  a  holy  well  in  Glamorganshire  between 
Coychurch  and  Bridgled,  where  people  suffer- 

1  "Past  in  the  Present,"  Sir  Arthur  Mitchell:  "Folklore  of 
Scottish  Lochs  and  Springs,"  Mackinlay. 


Old  English   Customs 

ing  from  any  malady  dip  a  rag  in  the  water, 
bathe  the  affected  part,  and  then  place  the 
rag  on  a  tree  close  to  the  well.  He  saw 
hundreds  of  these  shreds  covering  the  tree, 
and  some  had  evidently  been  placed  there 

The  custom  of  "  well-dressing  "  was  origi- 
nally a  pagan  rite  held  in  honour  of  the 
nymphs,  and  corresponds  with  the  ancient 
Roman  Fontinalia,  or  annual  flower-festival 
of  the  spirits  of  the  streams  and  fountains. 
Shorn  of  its  pagan  associations  and  adapted 
to  Christian  usage,  the  time-honoured  cus- 
tom flourishes  with  pristine  vigour.  Derby- 
shire, with  the  adjacent  counties,  is  the  home 
of  "  well-dressing."  At  Tissington,  which 
claims  to  have  the  only  real  survival  of  the 
custom,  it  takes  place  on  Ascension  Day ;  at 
Goulgrave  on  June  24th,  Midsummer  Day ; 
at  Derby  and  Wirksworth  at  Whitsuntide ; 
at  Barton  on  the  Thursday  nearest  to  St. 
John  the  Baptist's  Day.  Hone  wrote  of 
the  Tissington  "  well-dressing  "  as  a  festivity 
which  is  heartily  loved  and  earnestly  antici- 
pated, one  which  draws  the  hearts  of  those 
who  were  brought  up  there,  but  whom  fortune 
had  cast  in  distant  places,  homeward  with  an 
irresistible  charm.  Elaborate  preparations 
are  made  for  its  approach.  Flowers  are 
arranged  in  patterns  to  form  mottoes  and 

1  Folk- Lore,  September  1892. 


texts  of  Scripture,  as  also  devices,  such  as 
crosses,  crowns,  and  triangles,  while  green 
boughs  are  added  to  complete  the  picture. 
A  recent  visitor  at  one  of  these  functions1 
says,  "  The  name  '  well-dressing '  scarcely 
gives  a  proper  idea  of  these  beautiful  struc- 
tures. They  are  rather  fountains  or  cas- 
cades, the  water  descending  from  above, 
and  not  rising  as  in  a  well.  Their  height 
varies  from  ten  to  twelve  feet,  and  the 
original  stone  frontage  is  on  this  day  hidden 
by  a  wooden  erection  in  the  form  of  an  arch 
or  some  other  elegant  design.  Over  these 
planks  a  layer  of  plaster  of  Paris  is  spread, 
and  whilst  it  is  wet,  flowers  without  leaves 
are  stuck  in  it,  forming  a  most  beautiful 
mosaic  pattern.  On  one  the  large  yellow 
field-ranunculus  was  arranged  in  letters,  and 
so  a  verse  of  Scripture  or  a  hymn  was  re- 
called to  the  spectator's  mind.  On  another 
a  white  dove  was  sculptured  in  the  plaster 
and  set  in  a  groundwork  of  the  humble 
violet.  The  daisy,  which  our  poet  Chaucer 
would  gaze  upon  for  hours  together,  formed 
diaper-work  of  red  and  white ;  the  pale 
primrose  was  set  off  by  the  rich  red  of  the 
'ribes.'  Nor  were  the  coral  berries  of  the 
holly,  mountain  ash,  and  yew  forgotten ; 
they  are  carefully  gathered  and  stored  in 
the  winter  to  be  ready  for  the  May  Day 

1  Notes  and  Queries. 


Old  English   Customs 

fete.  It  is  scarcely  possible  to  describe  the 
vivid  colouring  and  beautiful  effect  of  these 
favourites  of  nature  arranged  in  wreaths 
and  garlands  and  devices  of  every  hue. 
And  then  the  pure  sparkling  water,  which 
pours  down  from  the  midst  of  them  on  the 
rustic  moss-grown  stones  beneath,  completes 
the  enchantment,  and  makes  this  feast  of 
the  '  well-flowering '  one  of  the  most  beauti- 
ful of  all  the  old  customs  that  are  left  in 
Merrie  England." 

Around  the  first  well  are  gathered  groups 
of  country-folk,  while  the  clergyman  reads 
the  first  of  the  three  Psalms  appointed  for 
the  day,  and  a  hymn  is  sung.  Then  all 
move  forward  to  the  next  well,  where 
another  Psalm  is  read  and  another  hymn  is 
sung ;  the  Epistle  and  Gospel  are  read  at 
the  last  two  wells.  Some  attribute  the 
origin  of  the  custom  to  a  great  drought 
which  visited  Derbyshire  in  1615,  when  the 
wells  of  Tissington  continued  to  flow,  and 
provided  water  for  the  whole  neighbour- 
hood; but,  as  we  have  said,  we  must  refer 
the  origin  farther  back  to  Roman  times, 
and  connect  it  with  the  ancient  pagan 

At  Endon,   in  Staffordshire,   the  festival 

is  held  on  Royal  Oak  Day,  and  a  description 

of  the  proceedings  is  not  without  interest. 

There    are    two    wells    at    Endon,    the    one 



very  old  and  almost  dry,  which  has  long 
since  fallen  into  disuse ;  the  other  alone  sup- 
plies the  village  with  water.  From  a  very 
early  hour  in  the  morning  the  whole  village 
is  astir,  and  the  people  busy  themselves  in 
bedecking  the  wells  for  the  coming  cere- 
mony. Crowds  of  visitors  flock  in  from 
all  parts  of  the  district,  and  the  village  green 
swarms  with  eager  spectators.  The  pro- 
ceedings are  under  the  personal  guidance 
of  the  vicar  of  the  parish,  and  at  two  o'clock 
a  procession  of  school  children  is  formed  at 
the  new  well,  headed  by  a  band  of  music. 
The  children  wave  flags  vigorously,  and  the 
procession  marches  to  the  old  parish  church, 
where  a  solemn  service  is  held,  and  the 
villagers  attend  in  large  numbers.  Hymns 
and  psalms  applicable  to  a  thanksgiving 
service  for  water  are  sung,  and  at  the  con- 
clusion of  the  service  the  procession  is 
re-formed,  and  marches  back  to  the  new 
well.  Then  the  clergy  and  choir  walk 
slowly  round  the  well,  singing  "  Rock  of 
Ages "  and  "  A  Living  Stream  so  Crystal 
Clear."  The  well  is  adorned,  as  at  Tissing- 
ton,  with  a  large  wooden  framework  erected 
in  front  of  it,  covered  with  a  surface  of 
clay,  and  thickly  studded  with  flowers  of 
every  kind  of  hue.  "  O  ye  wells,  bless  ye 
the  Lord  ! "  was  the  text  that  garnished  the 
summit.  Maypole  dances,  including  the 


Old  English   Customs 

crowning  of  the  May  Queen,  occupy  the 
greater  part  of  the  afternoon,  and  in  the 
evening  the  band  plays  for  dancing,  and  the 
Maypole  dances  are  repeated.  After  dusk 
there  is  a  display  of  fireworks.  At  Youl- 
grave,  in  Derbyshire,  the  festival  is  observed 
with  much  spirit,  the  day  being  kept  as 
a  general  holiday.  The  clubs  hold  their 
annual  procession,  headed  through  the  vil- 
lage by  bands  of  music,  and  after  parading 
the  streets,  attend  a  short  service  in  the 
parish  church.  Up  till  quite  recently  "  well- 
dressing  "  was  observed  at  Buxton,  in  Derby- 
shire. A  friend  of  the  writer  visited  the 
office  of  the  leading  local  newspaper  in 
order  to  obtain  a  report  of  the  last  festival, 
and  was  grieved  to  find  that  it  had  ceased 
to  be  observed  two  or  three  years  ago.  At 
St.  Alkmund's,  Derby,  "well-dressing"  is 
still  practised  with  much  solemnity,  and 
the  photograph  of  the  floral  decorations  of 
the  well  on  a  recent  occasion  bears  witness 
to  the  admirable  taste  and  skill  of  the 
designers.  Also  at  Bisley,  near  Stroud, 
Gloucestershire,  there  is  an  annual  well- 

Wishing-wells  exist  in  many  places,  notably 
at  Walsingham,  Norfolk,  among  the  meagre 
remains  of  the  once  famous  abbey.  A  little 
to  the  north-east  of  the  site  of  the  old 
monastic  church  there  are  two  small  circular 
1 88 

Wishing-  Wells 

basins  of  stone,  the  waters  of  which  had  once 
miraculous  efficacy  in  curing  disorders  of 
the  head  and  stomach.  They  are  no  less 
powerful  now,  for  they  procure  for  the  sup- 
pliant the  gratification  of  his  wishes.  In 
order  to  attain  the  desired  end,  the  votary 
must  kneel  on  a  bare  stone  placed  between 
the  wells.  He  must  plunge  to  the  wrist  each 
hand  into  the  water,  and  then  think  of  what 
he  most  earnestly  desires,  without  disclosing 
his  wish  to  any  one.  The  hands  are  then 
withdrawn,  and  as  much  of  the  water  as  can 
be  contained  in  the  hollow  of  each  is  to  be 
swallowed.  This  wish  will  then  be  assuredly 
accomplished  within  a  twelvemonth,  if  the 
efficacy  of  the  solemn  rite  be  not  frustrated 
by  the  incredulity  of  the  suppliant.  A  volume 
might  be  written  of  the  lingering  superstitions 
of  the  English  people,  of  charms  and  portents, 
belief  in  witchcraft,  and  other  kindred  cults 
which  die  hard ;  but  we  are  at  present  con- 
cerned only  with  the  existing  customs  of 
our  race,  and  not  with  their  superstitions 
and  beliefs,  except  so  far  as  they  may  be 
manifested  in  local  usage  and  ceremonial 



Marriage  customs  —  Orange  blossoms  —  Rice- 
throwing —  Wedding  -  ring  —  Bride  s  veil — Shoe- 
throwing — Custom  at  Stoke  Courcy — Knutsford 
custom  —  Chopped  straw  at  weddings  —  Spur- 
peal  —  Holderness  customs — Kissing  in  Somerset 
— Yorkshire  Dale  customs — Races  for  ribbons — 
Courting  customs — Taking  Day  at  Crowan  — 
Cornish  miners'  custom — Shooting  the  bride — The 
Sin-eater  —  Funeral  customs  —  Passing  bell  — 
Yorks  funeral  biscuits — Corpse  roads — Crape  on 
beehives — Telling  the  bees — Burying  cheeses — 
Wheat  at  funerals. 

1  HE  three  great  events  of  human  life — 
birth,  marriage,  and  death — have  naturally 
drawn  around  them  some  of  the  most  curious 
customs  and  beliefs.  The  practice  of  many 
of  them  is  almost  universal,  but  few  concern 
themselves  with  the  origin  and  import  of  the 
strange  rites  which  they  so  often  witness. 
Almost  every  bride  is  adorned  with  orange 
blossoms.  When  did  their  use  become 
general,  and  why  was  this  particular  flower 
selected  ?  It  is  well  known  that  nuptial 
garlands  are  of  the  most  remote  antiquity. 
Among  the  Romans  the  bride  was  bound  to 

Marriage  Customs 

have  a  chaplet  of  flowers  or  herbs  for  her 
head,  and  among  the  Saxons  both  bride  and 
bridegroom  were  crowned  with  wreaths  kept 
in  the  church  for  that  purpose.  The  nuptial 
garlands  were  said  to  be  for  the  most  part 
rosemary  or  myrtle,  sometimes  of  corn  or 
flowers.  In  some  countries  it  is  said  that 
the  bride  is  crowned  with  a  garland  of  prickles, 
and  so  delivered  to  her  husband,  in  order 
that  he  might  know  that  he  had  tied  himself 
to  a  thorny  pleasure.  The  orange  is  a  Chinese 
plant,  and  in  China  from  time  immemorial 
the  orange  has  been  considered  the  emblem 
of  good  fortune.  Saracen  brides  used  these 
blossoms  in  their  personal  decoration  on  their 
wedding-day,  which  are  supposed  to  signify 
fruitfulness.  The  custom  was  probably  intro- 
duced to  Western  Europe  by  the  Crusaders. 
Another  explanation,  which  is  doubtful,  avers 
that  the  orange  was  the  golden  apple  of  Juno, 
which  grew  in  the  garden  of  the  Hesperides, 
and  that,  as  the  golden  apple  was  presented  by 
that  goddess  to  Jupiter  on  their  wedding-day, 
so  orange  blossoms  now  adorn  our  brides. 
These  classical  interpretations  of  the  origin 
of  the  custom  can  scarcely  be  accepted. 

The  bride  and  bridegroom  at  weddings  are 
also  deluged  with  rice.  Why  is  rice  thrown 
on  these  occasions  ?  This  custom  is  also  of 
Chinese  origin,  and  a  curious  legend  is  said 
to  account  for  the  origin  of  the  practice. 

Old  English   Customs 

Fifteen  hundred  years  before  Christ  there 
lived  in  the  province  of  Shansi  a  famous 
sorcerer  called  Chao.  A  man  named  P'ang 
was  just  going  to  be  married,  and  came  to 
consult  the  oracle.  He  was  informed  by 
Chao  that  he  would  die  in  six  days.  Not 
quite  satisfied  with  the  result  of  the  augury,  he 
consulted  a  sorceress,  fair  Peachblossom,  and 
obtained  the  same  prognostication ;  but  the 
sorceress  promised  to  avert  the  catastrophe 
by  charms.  Chao  was  astonished  to  see  P'ang 
walking  about  on  the  seventh  day,  and  re- 
cognising that  Peachblossom's  power  was 
stronger  than  his,  he  determined  to  destroy 
her.  This  could  only  be  done  by  very  careful 
strategy.  So  he  went  to  her  simple  parents, 
and  pretended  to  seek  her  in  marriage  for  his 
son.  The  parents  consented ;  marriage-cards 
were  duly  exchanged ;  but  the  unlucky  day 
was  chosen  for  the  wedding  when  the  Golden 
Pheasant  was  in  the  ascendant.  So  surely  as 
the  bride  entered  the  red  nuptial  chair,  the 
spirit-bird  would  destroy  her  with  his  power- 
ful beak.  But  wise  Peachblossom  knew  all 
these  things,  and  "  Fear  not ;  I  will  go  and 
defeat  him,"  she  said.  So  she  ordered  rice 
to  be  thrown  out  of  doors,  which  the  spirit- 
bird  made  haste  to  devour;  and  while  his 
attention  was  thus  occupied,  Peachblossom 
stepped  into  the  bridal  chair  and  passed  on 
her  way  unscathed.  That  is  said  to  be  the 

Marriage  Customs 

reason  why  we  throw  rice  at  weddings,  and 
we  hope  it  may  always  be  effectual  in  ward- 
ing off  the  attacks  of  the  Golden  Pheasant. 
Whether  the  legend  accounts  for  the  custom 
or  not,  it  is  undoubtedly  of  Chinese  origin, 
and  probably  is  taken  to  signify  a  good  wish 
that  plenty  may  always  follow  the  fortunes 
of  the  newly- wedded  pair. 

The  use  of  the  wedding-ring  dates  back 
to  pagan  times,  and  the  placing  of  it  on  the 
fourth  finger  of  the  left  hand  (a  custom 
founded  on  the  idea  that  on  that  finger 
there  is  a  vein  which  proceeds  directly  to 
the  heart)  has  been  traced  through  Aulus 
Gellius,  who  lived  A.D.  150,  and  Apion  in 
A.D.  40,  to  the  remote  times  of  Egyptian 

The  bride's  veil  is  a  relic  of  the  old 
"  care-cloth "  held  over  the  heads  of  bride 
and  bridegroom  during  the  ceremony.  This 
was  done  in  Saxon  times,  and  is  also  enjoined 
by  both  the  Sarum  and  York  Uses.1 

We  also  throw  old  shoes  after  young 
married  folk  in  order  to  express  our  wishes 
for  their  good  fortune.  Probably  this  was 
not  the  original  meaning  of  the  custom. 
The  throwing  a  shoe  after  a  bride  was  a 
symbol  of  renunciation  of  dominion  and 
authority  over  her  by  her  father  or  guar- 
dian, and  this  receipt  of  the  shoe  by  the 

1  Cf.  Notes  and  Queries >  No.  182,  &c. 

193  N 

Old  English   Customs 

bridegroom  was  an  omen  that  the  authority 
was  transferred  to  him. 

In  Kent  the  shoe  is  thrown  by  the  prin- 
cipal bridesmaid,  and  the  others  run  after 
it.  It  is  supposed  that  she  who  gets  it  will 
be  married  first.  It  is  then  thrown  amongst 
the  men,  and  he  who  is  hit  will  be  first 

There  are  several  wedding  customs  which 
are  peculiar  to  localities.  At  Stoke  Courcy, 
Bridgwater,  there  is  an  old  custom,  which  is 
also  found  at  a  few  other  places  in  Somer- 
set. A  chain  or  rope  is  drawn  across  the 
street,  and  the  bridal  party  are  not  allowed 
to  pass  on  their  way  home  until  the  bride- 
groom has  satisfied  the  demands  of  the 
holders  for  money  wherewith  to  drink  the 
health  of  the  happy  couple.  The  same  cus- 
tom prevails  at  Minehead.  Formerly  a  chain 
of  flowers  was  used.  Now  men  hold  ropes 
across  the  road  in  six  or  seven  places  at  short 
intervals,  expecting  money  at  each  place  be- 
fore the  wedding  carriage  is  allowed  to  pass. 

At  Knutsford,  Cheshire,  silver  sand  is 
spread  on  the  pavement  in  front  of  the 
bride's  house  as  soon  as  she  sets  out  for 
the  church.  The  sand  is  arranged  in  the 
form  of  wreaths  of  flowers,  half-moons,  and 
mottoes,  and  good  wishes  for  the  bride's 
happiness  are  inscribed.  Other  houses  in 
the  street  are  also  similarly  adorned,  and 

Marriage  Customs 

the  numerous  flowers  of  sand  and  hearty 
good  wishes  greet  the  bride  on  her  return-  to 
her  home. 

The  origin  of  this  is  thus  explained. 
King  Canute  forded  a  neighbouring  brook, 
and  sat  down  to  shake  the  sand  out  of  his 
shoes;  while  he  was  doing  this  a  bridal 
party  passed  by,  and  he  shook  the  sand  in 
front  of  them,  and  wished  them  joy,  and  as 
many  children  as  there  were  grains  of  sand. 

Mrs.  Gaskell  wrote  that  when  she  was 
married  all  the  houses  in  the  town  were 
sanded,  and  these  were  the  two  favourite 
verses  inscribed  on  the  sand  : — 

"  Long  may  they  live, 

Happy  may  they  be, 
Blest  with  content, 

And  from  misfortune  free." 

"  Long  may  they  live, 

Happy  may  they  be, 
Blest  with  a  numerous 

Unpopular  brides  in  the  North  have 
chopped  straw  or  chaff  scattered  in  front 
of  their  houses,  and  this  mode  of  expressing 
displeasure  is  sometimes  employed  in  the 
case  of  offenders  who  outrage  the  moral 
feelings  of  their  neighbours.  This  popular 
indignation  is  sometimes  shown  against  a 
wife-beater  by  scattering  chaff  or  straw  in 

Old  English   Customs 

front  of  his  house  amidst  groans  and  angry 
cries.  This  custom  is  similar  to  the  Ger- 
man practice,  when  only  chaste  maidens  were 
allowed  to  wear  the  bridal  wreath ;  if  one  of 
sullied  reputation  ventured  to  assume  it,  the 
wreath  was  torn  from  her  head,  and  some- 
times replaced  with  one  of  straw,  while  on 
the  eve  of  her  marriage  chaff  or  chopped 
straw  was  scattered  before  her  door.  In 
"  Westmorland  dialect "  it  is  stated  that  a 
girl,  when  her  lover  proves  unfaithful,  is,  by 
way  of  consolation,  rubbed  with  pease-straw 
by  the  neighbouring  lads  ;  and  when  a  North 
Country  youth  loses  his  sweetheart  by  her 
marriage  with  a  rival,  the  same  sort  of  com- 
fort is  administered  by  the  lasses  of  the 

The  custom  of  spreading  chaff  before  a 
house  door  prevails  at  Stratford-on  Avon. 
"  That  is  the  way  our  people  show  their  feel- 
ings for  wife-beaters,"  explained  a  native  of 
the  place. 

In  the  Midland  and  Northern  counties  a 
peal  is  rung  on  the  evening  of  the  Sunday 
after  the  publication  of  the  banns.  This  is 
called  "  Spur-peal,"  and  the  Sunday  is  known 
as  "  Spur-Sunday,"  to  spur  meaning  to  ask 
(Scottish  spier).  "To  put  in  the  spur- 
rings,"  signifies  to  give  the  banns  to  the 
clergyman,  and  to  be  "  spurred  up "  is  to 
have  the  banns  published. 

Marriage  Customs 

At  Holderness  the  young  folks  pour  hot 
water  on  the  door-steps  after  a  wedding,  in 
order  that  other  marriages  might  flow.  The 
idea  seems  to  be  to  keep  the  threshold  warm 
for  another  bride,  and  not  to  suggest  any 
unpleasant  prophecies  with  regard  to  the 
future  of  the  newly-wedded  pair. 

At  Halse  and  Bishops  Lydeard,  Somerset, 
it  is  customary  for  the  bridegroom  to  kiss 
the  bride  during  the  marriage  ceremony 
after  placing  the  ring  on  her  finger.  This 
is  a  survival  of  the  old  nuptial  kiss,  which 
formed  part  of  the  solemn  ceremonial  of 
marriage  according  to  the  Sarum  Use. 

The  Cornish  maids  and  men  have  a  custom 
useful  for  the  encouragement  of  matrimony. 
At  Crowan,  on  the  Sunday  previous  to 
Prayes  Crowan  fair  (July  i6th),  they  go  to 
the  parish  church,  and  at  the  end  of  the 
service  hasten  to  Clowance  Park,  where  a 
large  crowd  is  assembled.  Here  the  young 
men  select  their  partners  for  the  forthcoming 
fair;  and  as  sometimes  rivals  contend  for 
the  same  beauty,  and  as  sometimes  the 
beauty  rejects  the  generous  offers  of  eager 
swains,  contentions  arise,  and  tussles  ensue 
which  afford  much  amusement  to  the  spec- 
tators. "Taking  Day,"  as  it  is  called  in 
Clowance  Park,  is  responsible  for  many 
happy  weddings. 

At  Eddinbury,  Cheshire,  a  lover  is  required 

Old  English   Customs 

to  pay  his  footing  on  commencing  courting. 
Recently  the  happy  man  refused  to  conform 
to  this  established  usage.  A  huge  flour-bag 
was  therefore  produced,  in  which  the  unfor- 
tunate lover  was  enveloped.  It  is  not  stated 
whether  his  ludicrous  appearance  caused  the 
lady  to  change  her  mind. 

Courtship  has  its  customs  too.  Girls  in 
Buckinghamshire  are  wont  to  pin  their 
woollen  stockings  to  the  wall,  and  repeat 
the  following  rhyme  :— 

"  I  hang  my  stocking  on  the  wall, 

Hoping  my  true  love  for  to  call ; 
May  he  neither  rest,  sleep,  nor  happy  be, 
Until  he  comes  and  speaks  to  me." 

Another  custom,  when  a  lover  is  faithless, 
is  to  prick  the  "  wedding  "  finger,  and  with 
the  blood  write  upon  paper  her  own  name 
and  that  of  the  favoured  swain,  afterwards 
to  form  three  rings  (still  with  the  blood) 
joined  underneath  the  writing,  dig  a  hole  in 
the  ground,  and  bury  the  paper,  keeping  the 
whole  matter  a  secret  from  every  one.  This 
is  believed  to  be  an  unfailing  charm. 

To  see  her  future  husband  in  a  dream, 
a  maiden,  on  taking  off  her  boots,  must 
place  them  T-square  fashion,  and  pointed  in 
the  direction  of  the  nearest  church.  She 
must  then  say— 



"  I  set  my  boots  in  the  shape  of  a  T, 
Hoping  my  true  love  for  to  see ; 
The  shape  of  his  body,  the  colour  of  his  hair, 
And  the  daily  apparel  my  true  love  doth 

Then  she  must  get  into  bed  backwards, 
preserving  strict  silence.  This  procedure  is 
to  be  repeated  twice,  and  then  the  future 
husband  will  appear  without  fail.1 

In  East  Lancashire  Friday  evening  is  not 
considered  a  correct  or  suitable  time  for 
courtship.  The  first  person  spying  a  couple 
so  engaged  enters  the  house,  seizes  the  frying- 
pan,  and  beats  on  it  a  tattoo.  This  arouses 
the  neighbours,  who  give  a  warm  reception 
to  the  offending  couple  if  they  do  not  with- 
draw hurriedly. 

Yorkshire,  the  home  of  so  many  old 
customs  which  linger  on  in  the  distant  dales, 
has  still  some  strange  survivals  of  wedding 
customs  which  can  be  traced  back  to  very 
remote  antiquity.  After  the  wedding  is 
over,  races  are  run  in  a  field  near  the  church, 
the  prize  being  a  ribbon  presented  by  the 
bride.  This  ribbon  is  a  delicate  substitute 
for  the  bride's  garter,  which  used  to  be  taken 
off  as  she  knelt  at  the  altar,  and  offered  as 
a  prize  for  the  fleetest  runner.  The  races 
were  formerly  run  on  horseback,  and  the 

1  Walford's  "Antiquarian." 

Old  English   Customs 

goal  was  the  bride's  door.  We  have  here 
some  relics,  as  Canon  Atkinson  points  out  in 
his  "  Forty  Years  in  a  Moorland  Parish,"  of 
the  ancient  manner  of  wooing,  which  con- 
sisted in  carrying  off  the  bride  by  physical 
force.  Traces  of  this  can  still  be  observed 
in  the  Welsh  custom  of  the  bridegroom 
mounting  on  horseback  after  the  ceremony 
with  his  wife  behind  him,  and  then  being 
pursued  by  the  wedding  guests.  This  is  a 
strange  relic  of  the  old  savage  practice. 

The  miners  of  Cornwall  have  several  curi- 
ous customs.  Not  the  least  remarkable  of 
these  is  the  practice  of  burning  the  hats  of 
fathers  after  the  birth  of  their  first  child. 
This  still  prevails  at  St.  Just. 

At  Eyam,  Derbyshire,  a  correspondent 
informs  me  that  it  was  the  custom  forty 
years  ago,  after  the  publication  of  the  banns 
for  the  third  time,  for  an  elderly  man  who 
sat  in  the  choir  gallery  to  supplement  the 
parson's  words  by  saying,  "  God  speed  'em 
well."  But  the  man  is  probably  dead  now, 
and  the  custom  too.  Another  peculiar 
wedding  custom,  of  which  there  appears 
to  be  no  record,  existed  at  Gunton,  Norfolk. 
A  friend  of  the  writer  saw,  on  the  occasion 
of  a  wedding  in  the  parish  church,  a  man 
hiding  himself  behind  a  tree.  When  the 
bride  and  bridegroom  returned  from  the 
church,  the  man  fired  at  or  near  them. 

Burial  Customs 

This  custom  was  called  "Shooting  the 
Bride,"  and  was  supposed  to  bring  good 
luck  and  drive  away  evil  spirits.  The  same 
custom  prevails  in  Ireland.1  The  bridal 
party  are  saluted  with  shots  from  muskets 
and  pistols  in  every  village  through  which 
they  pass.  This  often  causes  many  riders  to 
be  unseated,  as  they  all  gallop  fast  on  these 
occasions,  as  at  the  old  Yorkshire  weddings, 
contending  for  the  honour  of  arriving  first 
at  the  bridegroom's  house. 

In  Ireland  a  very  strange  marriage  custom 
prevails  in  County  Mayo.  Gangs  of  men, 
dressed  in  women's  dresses,  and  with  straw 
masks,  attend  the  wedding  and  dance.  The 
band  consists  of  twelve  men,  and  the  leader 
of  the  "  straw-boys "  has  the  privilege  of 
dancing  a  measure  with  the  bride. 

Burials,  too,  have  still  some  curious  cus- 
toms which  time  has  spared.  The  mourn- 
ful tones  of  the  "passing  bell"  announce 
the  presence  of  death  in  the  village.  It  was 
formerly  rung  just  when  the  sufferer  was 
yielding  up  life,  in  order  that  the  parishioners 
might  pray  for  the  departing  spirit,  and 
after  death  the  "  soul-bell  "  was  rung.  Our 
modern  "passing  bell"  corresponds  with  the 
latter.  Sometimes  the  sex  of  the  departed 
is  shown  by  tolling  the  bell  twice  for  a 
woman  and  thrice  for  a  man.  In  Shropshire 

1  We  are  not  sure  whether  the  custom  is  now  defunct. 

Old  English   Customs 

all  the  bells  are  chimed  when  the  body  is 
being  brought  to  the  church,  and  the  custom 
is  called  "ringing  the  dead  home."  In 
Hampshire  the  outer  door  of  the  house, 
through  which  the  body  has  been  carried,  is 
left  open  until  the  return  of  the  mourners ; 
otherwise  it  is  supposed  that  another  death 
will  occur  before  a  year  has  passed  away. 

In  Yorkshire  it  is  customary  after  a  death 
to  send  to  the  friends  of  the  family  a  bag 
of  biscuits,  together  with  a  card  bearing 
the  name  of  the  deceased.  Sometimes  these 
"funeral  biscuits"  are  small  round  sponge- 
cakes, and  were  formerly  known  as  arvel 
bread- — arvel  or  arval  being  the  ale  or 
feast  of  the  heir  when  he  succeeds  to  his 
father's  property.1  This  is  a  relic  of  the  old 
pagan  funeral  feasts,  and  is  not  unknown  in 
other  parts  of  England.  It  is  probably  con- 
nected with  the  curious  custom  of  the  Sin- 
eater,  formerly  observed  in  Wales.  A  poor 
person  was  hired  (one  of  them  is  described 
as  "a  long,  lean,  ugly,  lamentable  rascal ")  to 
perform  the  duties  of  Sin-eater.  Bread  and 
beer  were  passed  to  the  man  over  the  corpse, 
or  laid  on  it ;  these  he  consumed,  and  by 
this  process  was  supposed  to  take  on  him  all 
the  sins  of  the  deceased,  and  free  the  defunct 
person  from  walking  after  death.  The  eaters 

1  Cf.  "  Forty  Years  in  a  Moorland  Parish,"  Canon  Atkinson, 
p.  228. 


Burial  Customs 

of  funeral  biscuits  in  modern  times  little  re- 
flect upon  the  extraordinary  superstition  of 
which  these  dainties  are  a  relic. 

At  a  funeral  near  Market  Drayton  in 
1893,  the  body  was  brought  downstairs,  a 
short  service  was  performed,  and  then  glasses 
of  wine  and  funeral  biscuits  were  handed  to 
each  bearer  across  the  coffin.  The  clergy- 
man, who  had  lately  come  from  Pembroke- 
shire, remarked  that  he  was  sorry  to  see  that 
pagan  custom  still  observed,  and  that  he  had 
put  an  end  to  it  in  his  former  cure.  Mr. 
E.  Sydney  Hartland  has  recently  maintained 
in  The  Times  that  the  custom  of  the  Sin- 
eater  still  exists  in  Wales,  and  mentions  the 
current  belief  in  Derbyshire  that  every  drop 
of  wine  drunk  at  a  funeral  is  a  sin  committed 
by  the  deceased.  Hence  wine  is  drunk  at 
the  funerals  in  order  to  release  the  soul  of 
the  dead  from  the  burden  of  sin.  At  Padi- 
ham  wine  and  funeral  biscuits  are  always 
given  before  the  funeral,  and  the  clergyman 
is  always  expected  to  go  to  the  house,  and 
hold  a  service  before  the  funeral  party  goes 
to  church.  Arval  bread  is  eaten  at  funerals 
at  Accrington,  and  there  the  guests  are  ex- 
pected to  put  one  shilling  on  the  plate  used 
for  handing  round  the  funeral  biscuits. 

In  the  North  of  England  a  basin  full  of 
sprigs  of  box  is  often  placed  at  the  door  of 
the  house,  and  every  one  who  attends  the 

Old  English   Customs 

funeral  takes  a  sprig  of  box,  carries  it  in  the 
procession,  and  throws  it  into  the  grave  of 
the  deceased.1  In  the  Dale  district  of  York- 
shire, when  a  young  unmarried  woman  is 
buried,  the  bearers  are  usually  six  single 
young  women,  who  wear  white  scarves  and 
gloves.  A  dead  child  is  borne  by  six  chil- 
dren, whose  sex  accords  with  that  of  the 

In  the  same  county  there  are  roads  called 
corpse  roads,  along  which  the  bodies  of  dead 
folk  are  carried  on  the  way  to  their  last 
resting-place.  At  Sharleton  the  coffin  must 
always  be  carried  to  Grime  Lane  End,  and 
then  put  into  the  hearse  or  cart.  The 
mourners  always  walk  to  this  spot,  and  then 
enter  the  carriages  and  continue  their  way 
along  the  corpse  road  to  the  church.  Local 
custom  has  sanctioned  this  usage,  which  is 
never  varied.  Canon  Atkinson  mentions 
some  similar  customs  in  his  "  Forty  Years 
in  a  Moorland  Parish." 

In  many  counties  the  custom  exists  of 
putting  crape  on  beehives  after  the  death  of 
their  owner.  This  is  solemnly  done  by  his 
nearest  relation ;  otherwise  it  is  supposed 
that  the  bees  will  die.  The  bees,  too,  have 
to  be  informed  of  the  death ;  this  is  done 
by  tapping  the  hives  and  saying,  "  Brownie, 
brownie,  brownie,  your  master  is  dead." 

1  "Curious  Church  Customs,"  p.  145. 

Burial  Customs 

This  is  called  "  waking  bees."  The  custom 
was  practised  at  Greenham,  Berks,  during 
the  present  year.  An  old  woman  reproached 
herself  to  the  vicar  because  she  had  omitted 
to  "  tell  the  bees "  when  their  master  had 
died ;  but  she  was  relieved  to  find  that  a 
neighbour  had  been  more  thoughtful,  and 
had  duly  performed  the  ceremony. 

Near  Bridgwater,  when  a  batch  of  cheeses 
is  made,  one  is  put  aside  for  the  funeral 
function  of  the  master,  should  he  die  within 
the  year.  If  he  outlives  the  year,  the  cheese 
is  sold,  and  always  commands  a  good  price. 

One  other  funeral  custom  is  worthy  of 
record.  The  husband  of  a  lady  living  in 
Lancashire  recently  died.  As  soon  as  his 
death  became  known,  a  friend  sent  to  the 
widow  a  small  sheaf  of  wheat  to  be  distri- 
buted among  the  relatives  present  at  the 
funeral.  This  wheat  is  evidently  an  emblem 
of  immortality,  and  the  custom  of  intro- 
ducing wheat  at  a  funeral  is  still  known  in 
modern  Greece.  Chandler,  in  his  "Travels 
in  Greece,"  states  that  at  a  funeral  two  men 
followed  the  body,  each  carrying  on  his  head 
a  dish  of  parboiled  wheat,  which  was  de- 
posited over  the  body.1 

1  Notes  and  Queries,  7th  Series,  vi.,  Nov.  3,  1888.     Note  by 
Lady  Russell. 



Legal  customs — Clameur  de  Haro — Tynwald 
Hill  and  Manx  laws — Court  of  Pie-Powder — 
Court  -  Leets  and  Court  -  Barons  —  Court  of 
Exchequer  —  Borough  -  English  —  Gavelkind — 
Court  Leet  at  Dimchurch — Heriots  — Judge's 
black  cap — Gray's  Inn — Curious  custom  at  Royal 
Courts  of  Justice. 

1HE  statute-book  of  the  laws  of  England 
is  replete  with  survivals  of  ancient  customs, 
and  learned  legal  commentaries  disclose  the 
existence  of  strange  local  usages,  curious 
tenures  and  rights,  which  originated  centuries 
ago,  and  are  held  to  be  valid  because  they 
"  have  been  used  so  long  that  the  memory 
of  man  runneth  not  to  the  contrary."  It  is 
remarkable  that  the  period  to  which  legal 
memory  extends  goes  as  far  back  as  the  first 
year  of  the  reign  of  Richard  I. 

One  of  the  more  curious  survivals  of  the 
customs  of  the  Middle  Ages  may  occasion- 
ally be  observed  in  the  Channel  Islands. 
This  is  called  the  Clameur  de  Haro,  and 
enables  a  suitor  to  claim  the  jurisdiction 
of  the  royal  courts  of  the  island  in  case 
he  considers  himself  wronged  and  unjustly 

Manx  Custom 

treated.  A  few  years  ago  (March  4,  1890) 
this  custom  was  exercised  in  order  to  prevent 
the  public  auction  of  certain  household  goods, 
which  was  disapproved  by  the  eldest  son  of 
the  family.  The  formula  uttered  by  the  son, 
according  to  ancient  usage,  was  as  follows 
— "  Haro  !  Haro  !  Haro  !  a  1'aide,  mon 
prince  !  on  me  fait  tort !  "  The  sale  ceased 
at  once,  and  the  matter  had  to  be  referred 
to  the  royal  courts  of  the  island.  This 
appeal  can  always  be  resorted  to  by  the 
inhabitants  of  the  Channel  Islands  whenever 
they  believe  that  they  are  being  treated  un- 

In  the  Isle  of  Man,  according  to  ancient 
custom,  the  laws  of  the  island  are  read 
publicly  on  the  Tynwald  Hill  once  every 
year  in  Manx  and  in  English. 

This  ceremony  connects  the  little  Manx 
nation  with  the  days  of  the  Sagas  and  the 
Sea-Kings.  On  old  Midsummer  Day,  July 
5th,  the  governor  goes  with  a  military  escort 
to  the  Church  of  St.  John,  near  the  famous 
hill,  and  is  received  by  the  bishop,  the  clergy, 
the  Keys,  Deemsters,  coroners,  and  people. 
Divine  service  is  held,  and  then  they  all 
march  to  the  mound,  the  sword  of  state 
being  carried  before  the  governor.  The 
chief  men  of  the  island  stand  on  the  lower 
steps  of  the  mound,  and  the  people  gather 
in  crowds  on  the  grass  beyond.  The  coro- 

Old  English   Customs 

ners  proclaim  a  warning,  that  no  man  shall 
make  a  disturbance  at  Tynwald  "  on  pain  of 
death."  The  Deemsters  then  recite  the  Acts 
of  Tynwald,  and  all  retire  to  the  church, 
where  the  laws  are  signed  and  attested.  This 
method  of  proclaiming  the  laws  was  formerly 
common  amongst  all  Norse  nations.  In  Ice- 
land the  custom  survived,  but  has  now  been 
discontinued.  The  "  little  Manx  nation " 
alone  preserves  this  badge  of  ancient  liberty. 
Formerly  this  method  was  sorely  needed,  as 
the  laws  only  existed  in  the  breasts  of  the 
Deemsters,  and  were  called  "  Breast  Laws," 
being  handed  down  orally  from  Deemster 
to  Deemster.  In  the  time  of  the  second 
Earl  of  Derby,  they  were  first  committed  to 

The  oath  of  the  Deemster  or  Judge  is 
worthy  of  record  in  a  book  dealing  with  old 
customs,  and  is  remarkable  for  its  ancient 
form  and  phraseology.  The  words  are  :— 
"  By  this  Book  and  by  the  holy  contents 
thereof,  and  by  the  wonderful  works  that 
God  hath  miraculously  wrought  in  heaven 
above  and  in  the  earth  beneath,  in  six  days 
and  seven  nights,  I  do  swear  that  I  will  with- 
out respect,  or  favour,  or  friendship,  love 
or  gain,  consanguinity  or  affinity,  envy  or 
malice,  execute  the  laws  of  this  isle  justly 
between  our  Sovereign  Lord  the  King  and 
his  subjects  within  this  isle,  and  betwixt  party 

Court  of  Pied-Poudre 

and  party,  as  indifferently  as  the  herring's 
backbone  doth  lie  in  the  midst  of  the  fish." 

The  court  of  pie-powder,  which  still 
exists  at  Newcastle-upon-Tyne,  has  an  old- 
world  title,  and  was  formerly  attached  to  all 
the  great  fairs  and  markets  in  the  kingdom. 
The  name  is  a  corruption  of  the  court  of 
pied-poudre  (curia  pedis  pulverizati)^  which 
is  said  to  be  so  called  from  the  dirty  feet  of 
most  of  the  suitors  who  frequent  the  court.1 
It  is  a  court  of  record  incident  to  every 
market  and  fair,  of  which  the  steward  of  the 
owner  of  the  market  or  fair  is  judge,  with 
power  to  administer  justice  for  all  com- 
mercial injuries  and  disputes  which  may 
occur  in  the  course  of  business  transacted  at 
the  gathering  of  traders. 

The  same  court  exists  at  Sturbridge  Fair, 
near  Cambridge,  and  so  useful  is  this  insti- 
tution for  the  administration  of  rough  and 
ready  justice  that  it  has  recently  been  revived 
at  Peterborough.  The  old  Guildford  charter 
granted  in  1285  gave  special  powers  for  the 
holding  of  this  court.  The  charter  runs  : — 
"  And  furthermore  we  have  granted  to  the 
aforesaid  Mayor  and  good  men  that  they  and 
their  successors  shall  have  for  ever  a  pie- 
powder  court  from  hour  to"  hour,  and  all 
things  that  belongeth  to  the  same  court." 

1  A  more  satisfactory  derivation  is  pied  puldreaux,   or  the 
court  of  the  pedlars. 

209  o 

Old  English   Customs 

It  gives  full  power  to  this  court  for  collect- 
ing dues,  settling  quarrels  and  complaints, 
and  deciding  disputes.  There  is  no  evidence 
as  to  the  date  when  these  courts  were  first 
established  in  this  country.  "  Over  all  com- 
mercial complaints  its  authority  was  absolute 
—an  offender  might  be  taken,  a  jury  of 
similar  traders  empanelled  on  the  spot,  evi- 
dence heard  at  once,  and  he  would  be  per- 
haps commencing  his  punishment  all  within 
an  hour." 

The  ancient  fair  at  Newcastle  is  opened 
by  the  Mayor  and  Sheriff  at  the  Guildhall, 
and  notice  given  as  follows  :  —  "  That  a 
court  of  pie-powder  will  be  holden  during 
the  time  of  the  fair,  that  is  to  say,  one  in  the 
forenoon  and  another  in  the  afternoon,  when 
rich  and  poor  may  have  justice  administered 
to  them  according  to  the  law  of  the  land 
and  the  customs  of  the  town."  A  similar 
proclamation  is  made  at  Modbury,  South 
Devon,  on  the  eve  of  St.  George's  Day  by 
the  Portreeve.  Yarmouth  and  Boston,  Hull 
and  Winchester  still  retain  documents  and 
books  relating  to  this  ancient  court,  and  the 
readers  of  "  Pilgrim's  Progress  "  will  find  in 
Bunyan's  description  of  Vanity  Fair  a  very 
accurate  picture  of  its  former  methods  of 
jurisdiction.  At  Bristol  it  survived  till  1885 
in  the  shape  of  a  body  calling  itself  the 
Tolsey  Court,  the  name  being  derived  from 


U    4.^1      »> 

tol "  or  toll.  At  Ely  a  proclamation  is 
still  read  twice  a  year  at  the  opening  of  the 
fair,  in  the  name  of  "  Alwyne,  by  Divine 
permission  my  Lord  Bishop  of  the  Diocese 
of  Ely  "  which  commands  that  "  all  vaga- 
bonds, idle  and  misbehaving  people,  cheaters, 
cozeners,  rogues,  sturdy  beggars,  and  shifters, 
do  depart  out  of  this  fair  immediately  after 
this  proclamation  upon  pain  of  imprisonment 
and  further  correction,  that  His  Majesty's 
subjects  may  be  the  more  quiet  and  the 
Queen's  peace  the  better  performed."  We 
believe  that  tolls  in  kind  still  survive  at 
Guildford,  where  a  pint  of  corn  is  taken 
from  every  sack  sold;  at  Berwick,  when 
one  egg  in  thirty  is  taken,  and  at  Dun- 
gannon  where  the  toll-board  requires  that 
the  tongue  of  oxen,  cows,  heifers,  or  bul- 
locks, killed  between  September  29th  and 
December  25th  shall  be  collected  "for  the 

The  whole  history  and  constitution  of  our 
courts  of  justice  are  full  of  quaint  usages. 
Court -leets  and  court  -  barons,  which  are 
incident  to  every  manor  in  the  kingdom,  and 
are  presided  over  by  the  steward  of  the 
manor,  are  still  held,  when  the  freeholders 
and  tenants  of  the  lord  of  the  manor  assemble, 
and  the  affairs  of  the  manor  are  duly  trans- 

The  names  of  the    courts  of  justice  are 

21  I 

Old  English   Customs 

sometimes  curious.  The  Court  of  Ex- 
chequer, which  once  concerned  itself  only 
with  the  king's  revenues,  is  so  called  from 
the  chequed  cloth,  resembling  a  chessboard, 
which  covered  the  table,  and  on  which,  when 
certain  of  the  king's  accounts  were  made 
up,  the  sums  were  marked  and  scored  with 

Some  systems  of  tenures  are  very  remark- 
able, notably  the  custom  of  Borough  English, 
which  prevails  in  several  cities  and  ancient 
boroughs  in  different  parts  of  the  kingdom, 
principally  in  the  North.  According  to  this 
custom,  the  land  descends  from  the  father  on 
his  death  to  the  youngest  son  only,  to  the 
exclusion  of  all  the  other  children.  Authori- 
ties differ  with  regard  to  the  origin  of  this 
peculiar  rule  of  descent.  Some  suppose  that 
it  arose  from  the  idea  that  the  younger  son, 
by  reason  of  his  tender  age,  is  not  so  capable 
as  the  rest  of  his  brethren  to  help  himself. 
Others  attribute  its  origin  to  the  ancient 
right  of  concubinage  which  the  lord  of  the 
fee  had  with  his  tenant's  wife  on  her  wedding 
night,  and  imagine  that  the  tenement  de- 
scended to  the  youngest,  and  not  to  the  eldest, 
as  the  former  would  more  certainly  be  the 
offspring  of  the  tenant.  But  it  is  not  known 
that  this  custom  ever  prevailed  in  England, 
though  it  did  in  Scotland  and  France.  Most 
probably  it  arose  from  the  usual  habits  of 

Borough  English 

Northern  nations,  the  eldest  sons  usually 
migrating  from  their  father's  house,  and  the 
youngest  remaining  with  him,  and  thus  be- 
coming his  heir.  It  would  thus  be  a  remnant 
of  the  pastoral  habits  of  our  Saxon  ancestors, 
and  not  a  memorial  of  a  hideous  right  of 
feudal  slavery. 

"  Borough  English  "  is  sometimes  known 
as  Cradle-land  tenure,  and  prevails  at  Mere 
Down,  Wilts,  in  the  manors  of  Lambeth, 
Hackney,  St.  John  of  Jerusalem  in  Islington, 
Heston,  Edmonton,  and  Fulham. 

Gavelkind  is  another  peculiar  system  of 
tenure,  which  exists  almost  universally  in 
Kent.  At  the  Conquest  the  men  of  Kent 
obtained  certain  concessions  from  the  Con- 
queror, and  were  allowed  to  retain  their 
ancient  liberties.  It  is  evident,  therefore, 
that  the  custom  of  gavelkind  before  the 
Norman  conquest  was  the  general  custom  of 
the  country.  According  to  this  usage  the 
land  is  divided  after  the  decease  of  the  father 
amongst  all  the  sons,  and  in  default  of  them 
amongst  all  the  daughters.  This  is  in  ac- 
cordance with  the  custom  of  the  Germanic 
races  described  by  Tacitus,  Teutonibus priscis 
patrios  succedit  in  agros  mascula  stirps 
omnis  ne  foret  ulla  potens^  and  was  doubt- 
less introduced  to  this  country  by  our  Saxon 
forefathers.  Gavelkind  also  prevents  the 
forfeiture  of  the  estates  in  case  of  an  attain- 

Old  English   Customs 

der  for  felony,  the  following  rhyme  explain- 
ing this  peculiar  privilege  : — 

"  The  father  to  the  bough, 
The  son  to  the  plough." 

The  Duke  of  Buccleuch  has  revived  an 
ancient  custom  which  dates  back  to  feudal 
times,  and,  in  his  capacity  as  Lord  of  the 
Hundred  and  Liberty  of  Knightlow,  War- 
wickshire, holds  his  Court-leet  and  Court- 
baron  at  the  old  posthouse,  the  Dun  Cow 
Hotel,  Dunchurch,  near  Rugby.  The  court 
is  presided  over  by  the  steward.  The  jury 
are  duly  sworn  in  by  the  bailiff,  who  ad- 
ministers an  oath,  couched  in  quaint  terms, 
binding  them  to  make  a  true  presentment 
of  such  things  as  would  be  given  them  in 
charge,  and  "  to  conceal  and  keep  secret  the 
Queen's  counsel  and  your  own  and  your 
fellows'."  The  business  of  the  court,  which 
consists  of  receiving  the  reports  of  the  bailiff 
and  the  reports  of  the  stewards  to  the  effect 
that  several  parishes  had  failed  in  their  hom- 
age to  the  court  by  the  non-payment  of 
"  essoign  pence,"  "  charge  rent,"  is  gravely 
proceeded  with,  and  after  the  various  matters 
have  been  discussed  the  jury  make  their 
presentment,  with  the  formal  proclamation. 
The  court  then  rises.  Subsequently  the 
jury  and  the  others  concerned  in  the  busi- 


ness  of  the  court  are  entertained  to  dinner 
by  the  Duke  of  Buccleuch. 

The  custom  of  heriots  is  also  remarkable, 
and  is  a  relic  of  villein  tenure  when  the  goods 
and  chattels  of  the  tenant  belonged  to  the 
lord  and  were  liable  to  seizure  by  him. 
Under  this  custom  the  lord  of  the  manor  is 
entitled  to  the  best  beast,  or  in  some  cases 
the  best  personal  possession,  such  as  a  jewel  or 
piece  of  plate,  on  the  property  of  the  tenant 
at  the  time  of  his  death.  This  is  justly  con- 
sidered as  one  of  the  most  oppressive  customs 
which  attend  the  modern  law  of  tenures,  and 
usually  a  customary  composition  in  money 
is  agreed  upon  in  lieu  of  a  heriot.  But  this 
arrangement  is  not  universal.  A  few  years 
ago  the  tenant  of  the  lord  of  a  Sussex  manor 
died,  and  among  his  possessions  was  a  very 
valuable  Shire  horse.  This  horse  was  claimed 
by  the  lord  as  a  heriot ;  the  law  upheld  his 
claim,  and  the  horse  was  duly  conveyed  to 
his  stables.  A  curious  circumstance  fol- 
lowed. The  horse  died  a  fortnight  after  its 
transference  to  its  new  quarters,  and  the 
cause  of  its  death  aroused  sundry  suspicions. 

The  frequenters  of  our  courts  of  justice 
have  observed  the  judge  wearing  a  black  cap 
when  pronouncing  sentence  of  death.  The 
origin  of  this  custon  has  been  variously  ex- 
plained. The  covering  of  the  head  has  been 
a  sign  of  mourning  among  many  nations. 

Old  English   Customs 

Jews,  Greeks,  Romans,  Anglo-Saxons,  all 
used  to  adopt  this  mode  of  signifying  sorrow 
for  death;  but  we  must  look  elsewhere  for 
an  explanation  of  the  origin  of  the  use  of 
the  judge's  black  cap.  The  judges  were 
usually  clerics,  and  all  members  of  the  cleri- 
cal orders  had  the  crown  of  the  head  shaved. 
The  bare  patch  on  a  judge's  or  barrister's 
wig  is  a  remnant  of  the  tonsure.  Now  this 
tonsure  on  the  crown  of  his  wig  the  judge  in 
passing  sentence  of  death  covers  with  a  black 
cap,  to  show  that  for  the  time  he  lays  aside 
his  clerical  office,  it  being  against  the  primi- 
tive canons  for  a  churchman  to  have  anything 
to  do  with  the  death  of  a  fellow-creature. 

Gray's  Inn  clings  tenaciously  to  tradition. 
Within  its  walls  may  still  be  heard  the 
"  mootings  "  at  which  some  knotty  point  of 
law  is  discussed  in  the  presence  of  an  emi- 
nent Queen's  Counsel.  The  students  still 
drink  "  to  the  glorious,  pious,  and  immortal 
memory  of  good  Queen  Bess,"  whose  por- 
trait hangs  in  the  place  of  honour  over  the 
Benchers'  table.  On  grand  nights  there  is 
still  the  offering  of  wine  with  a  morsel  of 
bread  upon  a  silver  plate — an  almost  sacra- 
mental observance.  And  now  the  honour- 
able Society  seeks  to  restore,  in  modified 
measure,  that  reputation  for  revels  which 
Queen  Elizabeth  acknowledged  when  she 
praised  Gray's  Inn  as  "  an  house  she  was 

Gray's   Inn   Customs 

much  indebted  to,  for  it  always  studied  for 
some  sports  to  present  to  her."  Three  or 
four  years  ago  there  was  a  masque,  such  as 
Burleigh,  the  great  minister,  delighted  to 
witness,  and  recently  there  was  a  revival  of 
"The  Comedy  of  Errors,"  as  it  was  doubtless 
presented  three  hundred  and  one  years  ago. 
With  the  Middle  Temple,  Gray's  Inn  shares 
the  glory  of  being  the  only  existing  place  in 
which  plays  of  Shakespeare  saw  light.  In 
"  Gesta  Grayorum "  occurs  the  earliest  re- 
ference to  "  The  Comedy  of  Errors,"  which 
was  produced  amid  some  tumult,  owing  to 
the  overcrowding  of  the  hall,  for  we  are  told 
that  the  night  "  began  and  continued  to  the 
end  in  nothing  but  confusion  and  errors ; 
whereupon  it  was  ever  afterwards  called  the 
night  of  errors."  No  finer  setting  could  be 
imagined  than  the  bare  boards  of  the  beauti- 
ful hall,  beneath  the  hammer-beam  roof  with 
a  background  of  a  richly-designed  oak  screen, 
to  which  age  had  given  a  burnished  lustre. 
The  costumes  were  faithful  reproductions  of 
the  dresses  of  the  period.  Serving-men  held 
torches  to  light  the  play,  as  in  1594,  and  at 
the  close  of  the  play  the  actors,  kneeling  in 
a  row,  delivered  that  curious  supplication, 
known  as  the  "  Queen's  Prayer,"  from  the 
play  of  "  Ralph  Roister  Doister,"  which  Her 
Majesty's  servants  were  wont  to  speak  at  the 
conclusion  of  their  performance.  Supper  was 

Old  English   Customs 

eaten  to  the  music  of  lutes,  viols,  and  vir- 
ginals from  the  minstrels'  loft.  The  whole 
spectacle  was  a  delightful  revival  of  the 
drama  of  ancient  times. 

A  peculiar  survival  of  ancient  observance 
is  annually  witnessed  at  the  royal  courts  of 
justice.  Certain  quit-rent  services  to  the 
Crown  are  rendered  before  the  Queen's  Re- 
membrancer by  the  Secondary  of  the  City  of 
London  and  the  City  Solicitor.  According 
to  records  which  can  be  traced  back  to  the 
thirteenth  century,  Walter  le  Brun,  farrier  in 
the  Strand,  occupied  a  site  in  St.  Clement 
Danes  for  a  forge,  he  rendering  yearly  six 
horse-shoes  and  sixty-one  nails.  A  piece  of 
land  in  the  county  of  Salop  was  held  by 
Nicholas  de  Mora,  who  was  to  cut  two 
faggots,  one  with  a  hatchet  and  the  other 
with  a  billhook.  The  ceremony  has  been 
performed  for  more  than  six  hundred  years 
without  intermission.  Originally  rendered 
to  the  King  in  person,  the  service  was 
subsequently  undertaken  before  the  Barons 
of  the  Exchequer,  and  afterwards  before 
the  Cursitor  Baron,  which  office  was  abol- 
ished in  1860.  Since  then  the  proceedings 
have  been  conducted  before  the  Queen's 
Remembrancer.  The  ceremonial  commences 
with  the  reading  of  two  warrants  under 
seal,  one  for  the  appearance  of  the  late 
Sheriffs  to  give  account,  and  the  other 

City   Customs 

appointing  the  Attorney  to  account  on 
behalf  of  those  officers.  The  Secondary 
asks  that  the  warrants  may  be  filed  and 
recorded,  which  is  done.  The  Queen's 
Remembrancer  then  directs  the  following 
proclamation  to  be  made  : — "  Oyez,  Oyez, 
Oyez, — Tenants  and  occupiers  of  the  piece 
of  waste  ground  called  the  Moors,  in  the 
county  of  Salop,  come  forth  and  do  your 
service  upon  pain  and  peril  that  shall  fall 
thereon."  The  City  Solicitor  thereupon,  as 
agent  of  the  Corporation,  cuts  one  faggot 
with  a  hatchet  and  another  with  a  billhook, 
as  was  formerly  done  at  Westminster  by  the 
senior  alderman  below  the  chair.  The  next 
proclamation  invites  tenants  and  occupiers 
of  a  certain  tenement,  called  the  Forge,  in 
the  parish  of  St.  Clement  Danes,  in  the 
county  of  Middlesex,  to  come  forth  and 
do  their  service.  The  City  Solicitor  then 
counts  first  six  horse-shoes,  and  afterwards 
sixty-one  nails,  to  which  the  Queen's  Re- 
membrancer replies  "Good  number"  after 
each  counting.  With  this  the  ceremony 
concludes,  and  the  horse-shoes,  nails,  and 
faggots  are  distributed  among  the  spectators. 
The  most  singular  part  of  the  matter,  how- 
ever, is  that  all  trace  of  the  property  referred 
to  has  been  lost  for  two  centuries,  and  the 
forge  above  mentioned  was  pulled  down  in  a 
riot  in  the  reign  of  King  Richard  II. 


Civic  customs — Lord  Mayors  Show — Former 
splendour  of  civic  processions  —  Livery  Com- 
panies of  London — Civic  banquets — Loving-cup 
— Election  of  Master  of  Girdlers  Company — 
Skinners'  Company — Fintners'  Company — Swan- 
uppingand  the  Dyers'  Company — The  Salt-cellar 
of  the  Innholders'  Company — Silver  cradle — 
Colchester  Oyster  Feast — Huntingdon  and  the 
ox's  skull — Preston  Guild — York  and  Mayoress' 
chain — Freemasons. 

1HE  City  of  London  is  still  the  home  of 
many  remarkable  old  customs,  in  spite  of 
modern  innovations ;  and  the  ancient  consti- 
tution of  the  City,  with  all  its  time-honoured 
institutions,  has  not  yet  fallen  a  prey  to 
Progressist  ideas,  nor  been  absorbed  by  the 
London  County  Council.  The  old  Livery 
Companies  of  London  are  some  of  the  most 
ancient  and  honoured  of  our  English  institu- 
tions; they  recall  to  our  minds  the  past 
glories  of  our  civic  life,  and  retain  some  of 
the  old  manners  and  customs  of  our  fore- 
fathers, which  otherwise  must  inevitably  have 
been  lost. 

The   Lord    Mayor's    Show    is    a    familiar 

Lord  Mayor  s  Show 

sight  to  Londoners,  the  sole  survival  of  the 
old  pageants  which  delighted  our  forefathers 
when  England's  heart  was  young.  The  Lord 
Mayor  still  rides  in  his  chariot  of  state,  and 
a  few  of  the  Companies  send  pageants — cars 
elaborately  decorated,  and  made  to  represent 
the  particular  craft  with  which  the  Company 
is  associated.-  Masses  of  fruit  and  flowers 
adorn  the  car  of  the  Fruiterers'  Company. 
A  band  of  neatly-dressed  maidens  show  the 
skill  of  the  Framework  Knitters.  But  these 
are  only  the  relics  of  the  grand  spectacles 
that  once  graced  the  streets  of  the  City  on 
great  occasions,  when  a  king  returned  from 
a  victorious  campaign,  or  a  queen  was  wel- 
comed by  the  loyal  citizens.  Resplendent 
with  gowns  and  hoods  of  divers  hues,  well- 
mounted  and  gorgeously  horsed,  with  rich 
colours  and  great  chains,  the  civic  dignitaries, 
attended  by  the  Companies,  used  to  march  in 
procession  through  the  streets  to  attend  the 
services  at  St.  Paul's  Cathedral,  and  then 
entertained  in  their  festal  halls  nobles  and 
princes,  and  the  mighty  "  baron  "  made  the 
table  groan,  and  frumenty,  with  venison, 
brawn,  fat  swan,  boar,  conger,  sea-hog,  and 
other  delicacies,  crowned  the  feast.  A  de- 
scription of  two  of  the  pageants  of  the 
Mercers'  Company  will  serve  as  examples  of 
the  nature  of  the  shows  which  were  formerly 
in  vogue.  One  pageant  was  a  rock  of  coral 

Old  English   Customs 

with  seaweeds,  with  Neptune  mounted  on  a 
dolphin  at  the  summit  on  a  throne  of  mother- 
of-pearl,  and  accompanied  by  tritons,  mer- 
maids, and  other  marine  attendants.  Another 
pageant  was  a  triumphal  chariot  adorned  with 
a  variety  of  paintings,  enriched  with  gold  and 
silver  and  rare  jewels,  and  figures  bearing  the 
banners  of  kings  and  mayors  and  of  the  Com- 
panies, with  the  arms  of  the  founder,  Richard 
II.  A  Virgin  (the  arms  of  the  Company)  sat 
upon  a  high  throne,  dressed  in  a  robe  of  white 
satin,  decked  with  gold  and  gems ;  her  long 
dishevelled  flaxen  hair  was  adorned  with 
pearls  and  gems,  and  crowned  with  a  rich 
coronet  of  gold  and  jewels.  Her  buskins 
were  of  gold,  laced  with  scarlet  ribbons,  and 
she  bore  a  sceptre  and  a  shield  with  the  arms 
of  the  Mercers.  Her  attendants  were  Fame 
blowing  her  trumpet,  Vigilance,  Wisdom, 
and  other  personified  virtues,  and  the  nine 
Muses,  while  eight  pages  of  honour  walked 
on  foot,  and  Triumph  acted  as  charioteer. 
Nine  white  Flanders  horses  drew  the  huge 
machine,  each  horse  being  mounted  by  some 
emblematical  figure,  such  as  Asia,  America, 
Victory,  &c.  Grooms  and  Roman  lictors  in 
crimson  garb,  and  twenty  savages  or  "  green 
men,"  throwing  squibs  and  fireworks,  com- 
pleted the  pageant.  On  the  river,  too,  the 
scene  was  equally  animated,  for  there  the 
state  barges,  echoing  with  flutes  and  trumpets, 


adorned  with  streamers  and  banners,  passed 
along ;  and  one  barge,  called  the  Bachelors' 
Barge,  "  garnished  and  apparelled  passing  all 
other,  wherein  was  ordeyned  a  great  red 
dragon  spowting  flames  of  fyer  into  the 
Thames;  and  many  other  gentlemanlie 
pageants,  well  and  curiously  devised,  to  do 
Her  Highness  sport  and  pleasure  therein." 

Such  were  the  pageants  of  ancient  days, 
somewhat  different  from  the  less  magnificent 
displays  which  the  utilitarian  spirit  of  the 
age  grudgingly  sanctions.  It  is  satisfactory 
at  least  that  the  Lord  Mayor's  show,  the 
sole  relic  of  the  old  City  "  ridings,"  has  not 
quite  passed  away;  indeed,  the  last  show 
was  more  magnificent  than  usual,  and  the 
crowds  that  assemble  to  witness  the  pageants 
as  they  pass  show  that  the  English  people 
have  not  yet  lost  their  ancient  love  of  the 
pleasure  which  a  spectacle  affords,  and  are 
still  amused  by  the  sights  and  sounds  which 
delighted  our  forefathers  in  ancient  days. 

In  the  City  Companies'  Halls,  where  the 
great  banquets  take  place,  it  is  the  custom 
to  pass  round  the  loving-cup.  It  is  usually 
a  very  handsome  goblet  made  of  silver. 
After  the  dinner  and  grace,  the  Master  and 
Wardens  drink  to  their  guests  a  hearty 
welcome,  and  as  each  person  drinks,  his 
neighbour  on  each  side  stands  in  order  to 
guard  him.  The  custom  originated  in  the 

Old  English   Customs 

precaution  which  was  formerly  necessary  to 
protect  a  man  from  being  stabbed  while  his 
hands  were  employed  in  holding  the  cup, 
and  to  assure  him  that  he  was  in  no  fear  of 
treachery,  like  that  practised  by  Elfrida  on 
King  Edward  the  Martyr  at  Corfe  Castle, 
who  was  slain  while  drinking.  The  same 
custom  prevails  at  the  Oxford  Colleges  when 
the  "  Gaudies  "  are  being  celebrated,  and  the 
grace-cup  is  passed  round  by  the  assembled 

The  City  Companies  have  many  ancient 
customs.  The  Master  and  three  Wardens 
of  the  Girdlers'  Company  are  each  crowned 
on  the  day  of  election.  After  the  usual 
dinner,  the  beadle  carries  round  the  crowns, 
which  are  placed  by  the  clerk  of  the  Com- 
pany on  the  heads  of  the  officers,  and  the 
Master  drinks  the  health  of  the  Company. 
A  little  more  ceremony  is  introduced  at  the 
election  of  the  Master  of  the  Skinners'  Com- 
pany. The  Master's  crown  is  tried  on  the 
heads  of  various  members  present,  and  the 
verdict  of  the  assembly  is  pronounced  that 
the  crown  does  not  fit ;  until  at  length  it 
is  placed  on  the  head  of  the  Master-elect, 
and  the  members  at  once  declare  it  to  be 
an  "  excellent  fit,"  and  the  Master  is  duly 
elected.  In  some  companies  they  have  the 
custom  of  election  by  whisper.  The  renter- 
warden  goes  round  the  room,  and  each 

City   Companies 

member  whispers  into  his  ear  the  name  of 
the  Master-elect. 

The  Vintners*  Company  are  accustomed  at 
their  dinners  to  drink  the  toast  of  "  Prosperity 
to  the  Vintners'  Company  "  with  five  cheers, 
in  memory  of  the  occasion  of  the  visit  of  five 
crowned  heads  to  their  hall.  These  were 
Edward  III.,  King  of  England,  David,  King 
of  Scotland,  John,  King  of  France,  the  King 
of  Denmark,  and  the  King  of  Cyprus,  who, 
with  many  other  nobles  and  princes,  honoured 
Sir  Henry  Picard,  Master  Vintner,  by  their 
presence  at  a  splendid  feast. 

The  same  Company  and  the  Dyers  enjoy 
the  privilege  of  keeping  swans  upon  the 
River  Thames,  and  swan-upping  is  a  custom 
practised  every  year  by  the  swan  herdsman  of 
the  Vintners  in  conjunction  with  the  officers 
appointed  by  Her  Majesty  and  the  Dyers1 
Company.  The  young  birds  are  marked  by 
the  swan-markers  with  the  particular  marks 
of  their  respective  owners. 

The  old  custom  of  dividing  different  classes 
of  society  by  means  of  the  salt-cellar  is  still 
retained  by  the  Innholders'  Company.  They 
possess  a  very  fine  salt-cellar  of  the  time  of 
James  I.,  which  is  applied  to  the  special  pur- 
pose of  dividing  the  Court  and  the  Livery  at 
the  Livery  dinners.  The  latter  literally  "  sit 
below  the  salt,"  as  the  retainers  used  to  do 
in  the  baron's  hall. 

225  p 

Old  English   Customs 

Municipal  customs  exist  in  many  of  our 
English  towns,  several  of  which  we  have 
already  recorded.  One  general  custom  seems 
to  prevail  in  municipal  corporations  of  pre- 
senting a  small  silver  cradle  to  the  mayor  if 
his  wife  gives  birth  to  a  child  during  his  year 
of  office. 

Colchester  is  famous  for  its  oysters,  and  also 
for  its  Oyster  Feast,  which  has  been  main- 
tained for  well-nigh  four  centuries.  Indeed, 
this  town  was  remarkable  for  its  numerous 
dinners,  and  the  lives  of  its  municipal  gov- 
ernors must  have  been  extremely  jovial. 
And,  moreover,  it  was  all  done  at  the  ex- 
pense of  the  town.  Nearly  all  the  revenues 
of  the  place  were  consumed  in  eating  and 
drinking,  and  the  chief  duty  of  the  corpora- 
tion was  to  feast.  It  would  be  tedious  to 
enumerate  the  number  of  these  civic  ban- 
quets, but  conspicuous  among  them  was  the 
feast  at  the  opening  and  closing  of  the 
oyster -dredging.  The  Municipal  Reform 
Act  of  1835  abolished  municipal  banqueting 
at  the  cost  of  the  boroughs,  but  shortly 
afterwards  the  Colchester  Oyster  Feast  was 
revived,  and  has  ever  since  been  celebrated 
with  much  magnificence.  The  oyster  fishery 
has  always  been  a  valuable  privilege,  which 
was  granted  to  the  town  by  Richard  I. 
There  is  a  Court  of  Conservancy  specially 
appointed  to  preserve  the  fishery,  and  try 

Huntingdon   Customs 

all  offences  against  the  rules  of  the  Court, 
and  once  a  year  they  make  a  proclamation 
declaring  the  Colne  to  be  shut,  and  for- 
bidding all  persons  from  dredging.  This 
is  called  "Setting  the  Colne." 

The  strangest  and  most  remarkable  muni- 
cipal custom  is  that  which  prevails  at  Hunting- 
don.1 The  whole  of  the  freemen  of  the 
borough  assemble  in  the  market-place  on  the 
morning  of  September  I5th.  The  skull  of 
an  ox,  borne  on  two  poles,  is  placed  at  the 
head  of  a  procession  composed  of  the  free- 
men and  their  sons,  a  certain  number  of 
them  bearing  spades  and  sticks.  Three  cheers 
having  been  given,  the  procession  moves  out 
of  the  town,  and  proceeds  to  the  nearest  point 
of  the  borough  boundary,  where  the  skull  is 
lowered.  The  procession  then  moves  along 
the  boundary-line  of  the  borough,  the  skull 
being  dragged  along  the  line  as  if  it  were  a 
plough.  The  boundary-holes  are  dug  afresh, 
and  a  boy  thrown  into  each  hole  and  struck 
with  a  spade.  At  a  particular  point  called 
Blackstone  Leys  refreshments  are  provided, 
and  the  boys  compete  for  prizes.  The  skull 
is  then  raised  aloft,  and  the  procession  returns 
to  the  market-place,  and  then  disperses  after 
three  more  cheers  have  been  given.  There 
are  no  allusions  to  this  strange  custom  in  any 
of  the  topographical  books  of  reference,  and 

1  Antiquary,  1892. 

Old  English   Customs 

it  is  an  instance  of  the  strange  and  curious 
customs  which  linger  on  in  the  obscure  cor- 
ners of  our  land. 

The  old  Guild-life  of  England  has  almost 
completely  died  away,  with  the  exception  of 
the  Livery  Companies  of  London  to  which 
we  have  referred.  But  in  one  town  the 
Guild  exists  in  all  its  splendour.  Every 
twenty  years  at  Preston,  Lancashire,  it  re- 
vives, and  celebrates  the  occasion  with  much 
splendour  and  magnificence.  The  charter  of 
the  town  obliges  the  corporation  so  to  ob- 
serve this  function,  otherwise  the  inhabitants 
would  lose  their  franchises  and  right  as  bur- 
gesses. During  a  fortnight  the  town  is  en 
fete.  The  following  proclamation  is  issued 
by  the  Mayor: — "The  Guild  Merchant  for 
the  Borough  of  Preston  will  be  opened  with 
the  usual  solemnities  in  the  Town  Hall,  on 
the  first  Monday  after  the  Feast  of  the 
Decollation  of  St.  John  the  Baptist,  when  all 
persons  claiming  to  have  any  right  to  free- 
dom or  other  franchise  of  the  same  borough, 
whether  by  ancestry,  prescription,  or  pur- 
chase, are  to  appear  by  themselves  or  their 
proxies,  to  claim  and  make  out  their  several 
rights  thereto,  otherwise  they  will,  according 
to  ancient  and  immemorial  usage,  forfeit  the 


A  Court  is  formed  consisting  of  the  Mayor, 
the  three  Senior  Aldermen,   who   are  called 

Preston   Guild 

Seneschals  or  Stewards,  four  other  Aldermen, 
called  Aldermen  of  the  Guild,  and  the  Clerk. 
Before  this  Court  all  who  desire  to  be  en- 
rolled as  freemen  of  the  Guild  have  to 
appear  and  make  good  their  claim.  In 
olden  days  this  was  an  important  and  valu- 
able privilege ;  otherwise  he  could  not  carry 
on  his  trade  in  the  town;  now  it  is  an 
honourable  distinction.  The  companies  of 
the  trading  fraternities  assemble  early  in  the 
morning,  and  accompanied  by  the  noblemen 
and  gentry  of  the  county  they  wend  their 
way  to  the  Parish  Church.  After  the  ser- 
vice a  grand  procession  is  formed,  and  the 
companies,  decorated  with  the  insignia  of 
their  trades,  parade  the  town.  First  march 
the  tanners,  skinners,  curriers,  and  glovers ; 
then  follow  the  weavers  and  spinners,  the 
cordwainers,  carpenters,  butchers,  vintners, 
tailors,  plasterers,  smiths,  gardeners,  printers, 
and  bookbinders,  freemasons,  &c.  The  ladies 
also  take  a  prominent  part  in  the  functions 
of  the  Guild,  and  march  in  procession,  headed 
by  the  Mayoress,  accompanied  by  the  ladies 
of  the  leading  county  families.  Banquets, 
balls,  plays,  concerts,  follow  each  other  in 
rapid  succession,  and  during  the  whole  fort- 
night the  town  keeps  high  festival.  At  the 
conclusion  of  the  Guild  the  Masters  and 
Wardens  of  the  Companies  attend  upon  the 
Guild  Mayor  in  the  Guildhall.  The  Com- 

Old  English   Customs 

panics  have  their  Guild  orders  sealed  and 
regularly  entered  in  the  books.  Proclama- 
tion is  made,  and  the  name  of  each  inhabitant 
burgess  called  over,  when  the  Grand  Seneschal, 
or  Town -Clerk,  affixes  the  corporation  seal 
upon  the  Guild-book,  and,  holding  it  in  his 
hand,  says,  "This  is  your  law."  The  ser- 
jeants  then  make  proclamation:  "This  Grand 
Guild  Merchants'  Court  is  adjourned  for 
twenty  years,  until  a  new  Guild  Merchants' 
Court  be  held  and  duly  proclaimed."  Such 
is  the  relic  of  olden  times  which  has  come 
down  to  us.  Every  twenty  years  since 
1329  A.D.  the  festival  has  been  held,  except 
on  two  occasions — during  the  Wars  of  the 
Roses  and  the  troubles  of  the  Reformation, 
and  it  may  be  confidently  expected  that  in 
the  year  1902  the  Preston  Guild  will  again 
be  duly  celebrated  with  accustomed  honours, 
if  all  good  institutions  have  not  quite  passed 
away  before  that  distant  date. 

An  examination  of  the  insignia  of  office 
belonging  to  the  ancient  •  corporations  of 
England  opens  out  a  wide  field  for  antiqua- 
rian investigation,  and  swords  of  state,  maces, 
and  staffs  of  office  are  connected  with  many 
old  customs.  At  York  the  Lady  Mayoress 
has  the  privilege  of  wearing  a  chain  as  well 
as  her  husband,  but  she  has  to  tolerate  the 
indignity  of  having  it  weighed  on  its  delivery 
to  and  return  by  the  wearer.  This  custom 

York   Custom 

arose  from  the  discovery,  made  in  some  period 
of  remote  antiquity,  that  on  the  return  of 
the  emblem  of  office  by  a  lady  mayoress  it 
was  found  to  be  short  of  a  few  links. 

There  is  one  society  whose  proceedings 
are  replete  with  ancient  customs  and  time- 
honoured  observances.  The  Freemasons  are 
accustomed  to  ...  But  that  is  a  sealed  book, 
into  which  the  uninitiated  are  forbidden  to 
look,  and  its  secrets  we  may  not  disclose. 



Bell-ringing  customs — Dervsbury — Pancake-  bell 
— Bells  as  guides — Pudding-bell — Harvest-bell 
— Gleaning-bell — Curfew — Passing-bell — Eight- 
hours'  bell  at  Geddington,  fyc. — Calling  servants 
at  Fulham  Palace — Auction  by  candle  at  Alder- 
maston,  Corby,  Warton  —  Market  Drayton  — 
Coventry  and  Lady  Godiva — Pack  Monday  fair 
— Rockland  Guild — Mock  mayors — Statute  fairs 
—  Gingerbread  fairs — Tonm-criers  call — Relic 
of  feudalism  at  Dalton-in-Furness — Survival  of 
old  charm — Colting  at  Appleby — Brixton  market 
custom — Raffling  for  Bibles — Witches'  obelisk — 
Gipsy  custom — Ploughing  custom. 

SEVERAL  bell-ringing  customs  have  al- 
ready been  mentioned.  At  Dewsbury  there  is 
the  Old  Lad's  or  Devil's  Passing-bell,  when  on 
Christmas  Eve,  after  the  last  stroke  of  twelve 
o'clock,  the  age  of  the  year  is  tolled,  as  on 
the  death  of  a  person.  The  old  year  is 
tolled  out  and  the  new  year  ushered  in  with 
a  gladsome  peal  at  Kirton-in-Lindsey,  West 
Houghton,  and  many  other  places.  We  have 
noticed  the  "Spur-peal,"  which  is  rung  in 
the  Northern  counties.1  At  Swineshead  on 

1  Elsham  and  Searby  may  be  mentioned  as  places  where  the 
custom  prevails. 


E ell-Ringing   Customs 

"  Oak  Apple  Day  "  a  merry  peal  is  rung  in 
memory  of  King  Charles's  escape  at  Boscobel. 
Pancake-bell  may  still  be  heard  at  several 
places,  notably  at  Navenby,  when  it  used  to 
be  rung  by  the  oldest  apprentice  in  the  town. 
It  is  also  rung  at  Culworth.  Pancake-bell 
was  originally  the  bell  which  summoned  the 
people  to  confession,  and  not  to  eat  pancakes. 
At  Daventry  it  is  known  as  "  Panburn-bell," 
and  at  Maidstone  as  "Fritter-bell."  In 
Bedfordshire  there  are  several  surviving  pan- 
cake-bells. At  St.  Paul's,  Bedford,  the  fifth 
bell  is  rung  at  1 1  A.M.  ;  at  Cranfield,  the  third 
bell ;  at  Toddington,  the  sixth ;  at  Turvey 
the  first  and  second  are  chimed  together  at 
noon,  making  a  most  unmelodious  noise, 
which  is  supposed  to  indicate  the  approach 
of  the  gloomy  season  of  Lent.  Church- 
bells  were  very  useful  in  guiding  the  people 
home  on  dark  winter  evenings  in  the  days 
when  lands  were  unenclosed  and  forests  and 
wild  moors  abounded.  Hence  charitable 
folk  sometimes  left  money  to  pay  the  sexton 
for  his  labour  in  ringing  at  suitable  times 
when  the  sound  of  the  church-bells  might 
be  of  service  to  some  belated  traveller.  At 
Wokingham,  Berks,  there  was  a  bequest  left 
for  this  purpose  by  Richard  Palmer  in  1664. 
At  Kirton-in-Lindsey  during  November  and 
December  the  custom  is  still  kept  up ;  also 
at  Hessle,  near  Hull,  where  a  lady  who  had 

Old  English   Customs 

lost  her  way  on  a  dark  night,  and  was  guided 
safely  by  the  bells,  left  a  bequest  to  the 
parish  clerk  on  condition  that  the  church-bell 
should  be  rung  every  evening.  At  Wood- 
stock John  Carey  left  a  bequest  of  ten 
shillings  to  be  paid  for  the  ringing  of  a  bell 
for  the  guidance  of  travellers.  At  the  con- 
clusion of  the  morning  service  on  Sundays 
a  peal  of  bells  is  sometimes  rung.  This  is 
sometimes  called  "  Pudding-bell,"  but  was 
originally  intended  to  announce  that  there 
would  be  another  service  in  the  afternoon. 
This  custom  prevails  at  Kirkleatham.  The 
Harvest-bell  is  rung  at  the  parish  church  of 
Driffield  at  5  A.M.  and  8  P.M.  every  day  dur- 
ing harvest,  according  to  ancient  custom.  At 
Culworth  the  Gleaning-bell  is  rung  during 
harvest  at  8  A.M.,  and  also  at  the  ancient 
town  of  Great  Wakering,  Essex  ;  at  Driffield, 
Yorkshire ;  at  Swalcliffe  and  Tadmarton, 
Oxon ;  Churchdown  and  Sandhurst,  Glou- 
cestershire ;  Aldeby,  Gillingham,  and  Tiben- 
ham,  Norfolk ;  and  at  Beccles,  Suffolk. 
There  are  no  less  than  twenty  places  in 
Hertfordshire  where  the  gleaning-bell  is  still 
rung,  and  a  large  number  in  Leicestershire. 

In  the  same  county  the  curfew  is  also  rung 
at  many  places.  The  curfew  may  still  be 
heard  throughout  England,  not  always  at  the 
authorised  hour  of  eight  o'clock,  but  some- 
times at  seven,  and  in  some  places  at  nine. 

Curfew  Bell 

Sandwich  has  just  decided  that  it  is  better 
to  save  eight  pounds  a  year  than  to  preserve 
an  ancient  custom  at  that  cost.  But  it  would 
be  rash  to  say  that  no  one  will  ever  again 
"  hear  the  far-off  curfew  sound  "  over  the 
"  wide-watered  shore  "  of  East  Kent ;  for  it  is 
not  the  first  time  that  Sandwich  has  come  to 
this  decision.  After  an  unbroken  career  of 
700  years,  the  Sandwich  curfew  was  threatened 
with  extinction,  first  about  1833,  and  again  in 
1853.  But  on  both  occasions  public  opinion 
was  aroused,  and  saved  the  curfew ;  and  who 
knows  that  the  history  of  Sandwich  may  not 
again  repeat  itself? 

The  vitality  of  the  curfew  bell  is  especially 
remarkable  in  face  of  the  equal  vitality  of  the 
legend  which  seeks  to  discredit  it.  We  have 
most  of  us  learned  from  the  history  books  of 
our  youth  how  William  the  Conqueror,  the 
tyrant  who  destroyed  so  much  good  arable 
land  to  make  the  New  Forest,  invented  the 
"  couvre-feu  "  in  order  to  oppress  his  con- 
quered subjects.  But  the  New  Forest  legend 
has  recently  been  exploded,  and  the  curfew 
story  is  almost  as  false.  It  is  true  that  when 
William  "  introduced  "  the  rule  that,  at  the 
sounding  of  the  curfew,  all  fires  and  lights 
were  to  be  extinguished,  and  no  person  was 
to  stir  abroad,  he  had  an  eye  to  the  Saxon 
beer  clubs,  where  he  had  every  reason  to  anti- 
cipate the  hatching  of  treason.  But  it  was 


Old  English   Customs 

not  a  new  idea  of  William's  own.  The  cur- 
few was  early  to  be  found  all  over  France, 
Italy,  and  Spain,  and  it  is  said  that  its  ringing 
at  Carfax,  in  Oxford,  was  instituted  by  Alfred 
the  Great.  Alfred  is  also  said  to  have  pre- 
sented Ripon  with  a  horn,  which  was  blown 
in  the  streets  at  the  same  time  as  the  curfew 
bell  rang ;  or  rather  the  careful  people  of 
Ripon  kept  Alfred's  horn  in  a  safe  place,  and 
blew  a  less  distinguished  one  in  the  streets. 
These  Alfred  stories  are  probably  untrue,  but 
they  point  to  a  curfew  institution  older  than 
the  Conqueror. 

In  1103  the  compulsory  curfew  was  abo- 
lished, but  it  lingered  on  as  a  custom  almost 
everywhere,  and  it  is  really  surprising  to 
find  in  how  many  places  it  still  exists,  or  at 
any  rate  was  existing  at  some  time  during 
the  latter  half  of  the  present  century.  From 
Penrith,  Newcastle,  Morpeth,  Alnwick,  Kirby 
Stephen,  and  Durham,  in  the  north,  to  Win- 
chester, Exeter,  Bodmin,  and  Newport  (Isle 
of  Wight)  in  the  south,  there  is  hardly 
anywhere  a  district  of  twenty  miles  square 
where  the  curfew  could  not  be  discovered. 
Eastward  its  area  extends  to  Cambridge  and 
Bury  St.  Edmund's,  and  westward  to  New- 
port and  Carnarvon,  at  which  latter  town 
it  was  so  cherished  that,  when  the  old  Guild- 
hall was  replaced  by  a  new  one,  special  orders 
were  given  for  the  erection  of  a  suitable 

Curfew   Bell 

place  for  the  curfew  bell.  In  some  counties, 
such  as  Cheshire  and  Oxfordshire,  the  num- 
ber of  curfew  bells  recorded  as  still,  or  until 
lately,  existing  is  quite  startling.  In  the 
Scottish  Lowlands,  again,  it  is  far  from  un- 
common, and  here  again  there  is  a  tradition 
which  ascribes  it  to  the  tyranny  of  Edward  I., 
though  the  truth  is  as  doubtful  as  in  the 
case  of  the  Conqueror.  And  a  rather  touch- 
ing case  is  that  of  many  American  towns, 
especially  in  the  New  England  States,  which 
have  retained  it  as  a  legacy  from  their  Pilgrim 
founders,  who  were  so  unwilling  to  abandon 
any  of  the  customs  of  their  home-land.  In 
1851,  at  any  rate,  two  bells  rang  every  even- 
ing at  Charleston,  at  eight  and  ten  in  summer, 
at  seven  and  nine  in  winter.  At  the  first  the 
young  children  said  "  Good  night,"  and  went 
to  bed  ;  at  the  second  the  watch  for  the 
night  was  set,  and  after  that  no  servant 
might  step  outside  of  his  master's  house 
without  a  special  permit. 

Of  course,  all  these  instances  are  not  cases 
of  pure  survival.  Sometimes  the  ringing  of 
the  curfew  bell  was  retained  on  account  of 
special  bequests  for  the  purpose.  That  was 
the  case  at  Kidderminster,  where  the  bell  was 
ordered  to  be  rung  on  a  particular  night  for 
one  hour.  The  testator  had  upon  one  occa- 
sion gone  to  Bridgenorth  Fair,  and  lost  his 
way  upon  his  return.  In  his  wanderings  he 

Old  English   Customs 

had  strayed  just  to  the  edge  of  a  very  steep 
descent,  and  in  a  moment  more  he  would 
have  been  over  it,  when  suddenly  Kidder- 
minster curfew  rang  out,  and  showed  him 
his  direction.  In  gratitude  for  what  he  re- 
garded as  his  providential  escape,  he  left  his 
bequest  to  provide  for  the  ringing  of  the 
curfew  at  that  hour  to  all  time.  In  other 
cases,  it  is  a  pure  revival  due  to  antiquarian 
interest,  as  at  Minster  in  Kent,  where  the 
curfew  bell  proper  is  supplemented  by  a 
treble  bell,  which  rings  as  many  times  as 
there  are  days  so  far  in  the  month.  This 
ringing  of  the  day  of  the  month  is  found  at 
other  places,  as  at  Chertsey,  Waltham-on- 
the- Wolds  in  Leicestershire,  Bromyard  in 
Herefordshire,  and  many  more. 

But  it  is  contended  by  some  that  many  of 
these  so-called  curfew  bells  are  not  curfew 
bells  at  all,  but  the  old  Catholic  Angelus, 
rung  in  the  early  morning,  at  noon,  and  in 
the  evening.  As  we  find  that  at  many  of 
the  churches  which  keep  up  the  "  curfew " 
ringing  there  is  also  an  early  morning  bell, 
there  may  be  a  good  deal  in  this  view.  Nun- 
eaton,  for  instance,  joins  to  its  curfew  bell 
a  "  matins  bell,"  rung  at  6  A.M.  between 
Michaelmas  and  Lady  Day,  and  5  A.M. 
between  Lady  Day  and  Michaelmas.  At 
Pershore,  besides  the  curfew,  which  for  some 
curious  reason  was  confined  to  the  time 


Curfew   Bell 

between  November  5  and  Candlemas,  there 
used  to  be  a  bell  at  5  A.M.,  until  on  one 
occasion  the  sexton  made  a  mistake,  and  rang 
the  bell  some  five  hours  too  early.  The 
steady  sequence  of  early  morning  bells  was 
broken,  and  perhaps  the  people  of  Pershore 
thought  it  well  to  bury  a  scandal  like  that 
in  oblivion ;  at  any  rate,  there  was  no  more 
5  A.M.  bell.  They  had  omitted  to  look 
after  their  sexton  in  the  careful  manner  pre- 
scribed by  the  Faversham  Articles,  where 
the  sexton  is  directed  to  "  lye  in  the  church 
steeple  "  so  as  to  be  at  his  post  at  the  proper 
time.  It  was  a  matter  of  some  consequence 
in  some  places  where  the  early  morning  bell 
was  the  signal  to  rise ;  and  no  doubt  it  was 
for  this  latter  purpose  in  many  cases  that 
the  early  bell  remained  after  its  religious 
signification  had  dropped  out  of  sight.  The 
evening  curfew  has  in  the  same  way  served, 
especially  in  Scotland,  as  a  signal  for  the 
cattle  to  be  driven  home. 

The  Passing-bell  is  as  old  as  the  time  of 
Bede,  and,  together  with  the  Soul-bell,  has 
already  been  alluded  to.  At  Culworth  three 
tolls  are  given  for  a  man,  two  for  a  woman. 
In  Somerset  and  Staffordshire  a  muffled  peal 
is  often  rung  on  Holy  Innocents'  Day  in 
memory  of  the  slaughter  of  the  earliest 
Christian  martyrs. 

At    Geddington    the  "eight-hours'  bell" 


Old  English   Customs 

has  for  centuries  been  rung  at  4  A.M.,  at 
noon,  and  at  8  P.M.  The  early  bell  was 
intended  to  call  up  the  horsekeepers  and 
cowmen.  A  few  years  ago  a  slight  change 
was  made  in  the  hour.  From  Plough  Mon- 
day to  Lady  Day  the  first  bell  was  rung  at 

5  A.M.,  instead  of  at  4  A.M.,  but  now,  owing 
to  the  infirmities  of  the  sexton,  it  has  been 
discontinued.     At  Culworth  the  tenor  bell 
is  tolled  in  case  of  a  fire.     The  third  bell 
is  sounded  after  a  celebration  of  Holy  Com- 
munion as  the  communicants  are  leaving  the 
church,  and  a  peal    is  rung  at   5    A.M.   on 
the  four  Mondays  in  Advent,  to  remind  the 
listeners  that  "  now  it  is  high  time  to  awake 
out  of  sleep." 

In  Yorkshire  every  old  market-town  fol- 
lows the  ancient  practice  of  having  a  bell 
rung  at  early  morning  and  in  the  evening, 
though  the  hours  differ.  At  Kirkham  the 
bell  rings  during  the  summer  at  5  A.M.  and 

6  P.M.  ;  in  winter,  at  6  A.M.  and  8  P.M.     The 
evening  bell  is  called  the  angelic  bell.     At 
Crewkerne,  Somerset,  the  curfew  is  rung  at 

7  P.M.,  and  the  morning  bell  at  5  A.M.     The 
tenor  bell  of  Great  St.  Mary's,  Cambridge, 
is  always  rung  from  9  P.M.  until  9.15,  and  a 
smaller  bell  is  rung  at  6  A.M.     The  former 
was  probably  for  "  compline,"  the  latter  for 
"prime."      At    Oxford   "  Great   Tom/'    at 
Christ    Church,    tolls   a  hundred    and    one 


Waking   Servants 

times  every  night  at  five  minutes  past  nine 
o'clock.  The  number  was  chosen  in  accord- 
ance with  the  number  of  students  on  the 
foundation  of  the  College.  At  Epworth  a 
bell  is  rung  at  6  A.M.,  12  noon,  and  6  P.M., 
to  call  the  labourers  to  work,  to  dinner,  and 
to  rest.  A  similar  custom  prevails  in  the 
surrounding  villages.  Certainly  the  sound  of 
the  church-bells  is  preferable  to  the  steam- 
whistles  of  our  large  factories.  The  early 
bell  was  originally  a  summons  to  attend 

A  quaint  practice  exists  at  the  Bishop  of 
London's  Palace  at  Fulham,  and  this  consists 
in  what  appears  to  be  a  time-honoured  cus- 
tom of  waking  up  the  episcopal  domestics 
by  means  of  a  long  pole.  At  Fulham  the 
Palace  lodge-keeper  has  a  regular  morning 
duty  to  perform  in  knocking  up  certain  of 
the  servants  at  successive  hours,  beginning  at 
about  half-past  five.  The  pole  he  uses  is 
not  employed,  however,  like  the  old  church 
"  rousing-staves,"  which  came  in  handy  in 
churches  in  the  case  of  inattentive  or  dozing 
members  of  the  congregation  to  bring  them 
to  a  proper  sense  of  their  position.  The 
venerable  man  is  provided  with  a  slender  rod 
some  1 5  feet  in  length,  and  with  this  he  raps 
on  the  antique  casements  of  the  servants'  bed- 
rooms in  the  quadrangle  within  the  massive 
wooden  gates  of  the  large  western  archway, 
241  Q 

Old  English   Customs 

and    he    continues    his    attention    until    the 
sleeper  gives  a  more  or  less  grateful  answer. 

At  Aldermaston,  Berks,  the  curious  cus- 
tom prevails  of  letting  land  by  means  of  a 
lighted  candle.  The  villagers  assemble  in 
the  schoolroom  on  the  occasion  of  the  letting 
of  the  "  Church  Acre,"  a  piece  of  meadow 
land  which  was  bequeathed  some  centuries 
ago  to  the  vicar  and  churchwardens  of  the 
parish  for  the  expenses  of  the  church.  The 
custom  of  letting  the  land  is  as  follows  :— 
A  candle  is  lighted,  and  one  inch  below  the 
flame  is  duly  measured  off,  at  which  point  a 
pin  is  inserted.  The  bidding  then  commences, 
and  continues  till  the  inch  of  candle  is  con- 
sumed and  the  pin  drops  out.  Every  three 
years  this  ancient  ceremony  is  performed,  and 
it  is  a  relic  of  the  custom  of  selling  by  candle 
which  was  once  prevalent  in  England.  Pepys 
refers  in  his  Diary  to  this  in  the  follow- 
ing extract  (September  3,  1662): — "  After 
dinner  we  met  and  sold  the  Waymouth,  Suc- 
cesse,  and  Fellowship  hulks,  when  pleasant 
to  see  how  backward  men  are  at  first  to  bid ; 
and  yet,  when  the  candle  is  going  out,  how 
they  bawl  and  dispute  afterwards  who  bid 
the  most  first.  And  here  I  observed  one 
man  cunninger  than  the  rest,  that  was  sure 
to  bid  the  last  man,  and  to  carry  it ;  and 
inquiring  the  reason,  he  told  me  that  just 
as  the  flame  goes  out  the  smoke  descends, 

Auction   Customs 

which  is  a  thing  I  never  observed  before ; 
and  by  that  he  do  know  the  instant  when  to 
bid  last." 

Aldermaston  is  not  "the  only  village  where 
this  old  custom  exists.  At  Tatworth,  near 
Chard,  a  sale  by  lighted  candle  takes  place 
every  year,  and  at  Chedzoy  the  "  Church 
Acre  "  is  let  every  twenty-one  years  by  this 
means.  The  land  belonging  to  the  parish 
charities  in  the  village  of  Corby,  near  Ket- 
tering,  is  let  every  eight  years  by  the  sale  of 
candle,  and  the  procedure  is  similar  to  that 
which  has  already  been  described.  Also  in 
Warwickshire,  where  old  customs  die  hard, 
the  grazing  rights  upon  the  roadside  and 
on  the  common  lands  at  Warton,  near  Poles- 
worth,  have  been  annually  let  by  the  same 
means.  This  custom  has  been  observed 
since  the  time  of  George  III.,  when  an  old 
Act  of  Parliament  was  passed  directing  that 
the  herbage  should  be  sold  by  candle-light, 
and  that  the  last  bidder  when  the  flame  had 
burned  itself  out  should  be  the  purchaser. 
The  surveyor  presides  at  the  auction,  and 
produces  an  old  book  containing  the  record 
of  the  annual  lettings  since  the  year  1815. 
An  ordinary  candle  is  then  cut  into  five 
equal  portions,  about  half-an-inch  high,  one 
for  each  lot.  At  the  last  auction  the  sur- 
veyor drew  attention  to  the  fact  that  the 
sporting  rights  over  an  old  gravel-pit  were 


Old  English   Customs 

included  in  Lot  i,  but  regretted  to  say  that 
there  were  no  fish  in  the  pond.  "  Get  on, 
gentlemen,  please ;  the  light's  burning,"  was 
a  frequent  exhortation.  The  sales  in  former 
years  used  sometimes  to  be  attended  by 
much  disturbance,  but  recently  the  utmost 
decorum  has  characterised  the  proceedings. 

Fairs  have  degenerated  during  recent 
years,  and  are  very  different  from  the  great 
assemblies  of  merchants  and  pedlars,  monks, 
knights,  and  squires,  who  flocked  to  Stour- 
bridge  or  Southwark  in  former  times.  Some 
are  still  held  under  the  warrant  of  ancient 
charters  granted  by  the  sovereigns  of  Eng- 
land to  favoured  bishops  or  burgesses.  At 
Market  Drayton  there  are  several  fairs  held 
by  right  of  ancient  charter.  One  great  one, 
called  the  "  Dirty  Fair,"  is  held  about  six 
weeks  before  Christmas,  and  another  is  called 
the  "  Gorby  Market,"  at  which  farm-servants 
are  hired.  These  are  proclaimed  according 
to  ancient  usage  by  the  ringing  of  the  church- 
bell,  and  the  court-leet  procession  marches 
through  the  town,  headed  by  the  host  of  the 
"  Corbet  Arms,"  representing  the  lord  of  the 
manor,  dressed  in  red  and  black  robes,  and  the 
rest  of  the  court  carrying  silver-headed  staves 
and  pikes,  one  of  which  is  mounted  by  a  large 
elephant  and  castle.  At  the  court  several 
officers  are  appointed,  such  as  the  ale-conner, 
scavengers,  and  others.  The  old  standard 
2  44 


measures,  made  of  beautiful  bell-metal,  are 
produced,  and  a  shrew's  bridle,  and  then 
there  is  a  dinner  and  a  torchlight  procession. 

Coventry  Fair,  in  ancient  times  one  of  the 
largest  in  England,  is  remarkable  for  the 
procession  of  Lady  Godiva.  The  lady  still 
"  rides  forth  clothed  on  with  chastity,"  but 
the  garb  of  a  modern  burlesque  actress  seems 
scarcely  in  keeping  with  the  close  observance 
of  ancient  custom. 

Pack  Monday  Fair  is  still  held  at  Sher- 
borne,  Dorset,  on  the  first  Monday  and 
Tuesday  after  October  loth.  It  was  for- 
merly ushered  in  by  the  ringing  of  the  tenor 
bell  in  the  church ;  but  thirty  or  forty  years 
ago  the  bell  was  cracked,  and  its  voice  is  no 
longer  heard.  On  the  eve  of  the  fair  a  crowd 
of  boys  go  about  the  streets  after  midnight 
blowing  cow  horns  and  beating  tin  trays, 
making  night  hideous.  "  However  hideous, 
many  would  regret  to  see  the  old  custom 
abolished,"  writes  the  vicar  of  Sherborne. 
The  traditional  origin  of  the  custom  is  that 
when  the  builders  and  workmen  had  finished 
the  church,  they  packed  up  their  tools  (hence 
Pack  Monday),  and  held  a  fair  in  the  church- 
yard, blowing  cows'  horns  in  their  rejoicing. 

A  curious  country  fair  is  held  in  the  parish 
of  Rockland,  Norfolk,  on  May  i6th,  which 
is  known  as  the  "  Guild,"  locally  called  the 
"  Guile."  Anciently  village  guilds  were  uni- 

245  ' 

Old  English   Customs 

versal,  and  this  is  evidently  a  degenerate  relic 
of  the  Guild  of  St.  John  the  Baptist  held  in 
St.  Peter's  Church  before  the  Reformation. 
A  Mayor  of  the  Guild  is  elected,  usually  some 
half-witted  fellow  or  sot.  Having  been  made 
drunk,  he  is  clothed  fantastically,  chaired,  and 
carried  through  the  parish. 

"  Mock  Mayors  "  were  until  recent  years 
quite  an  institution  in  several  towns.  He 
exists  in  Newbury,  Berks,  in  a  part  of  the 
town  called  "  the  city."  Why  this  not  very 
aristocratic  portion  of  the  borough  is  so 
called  is  not  quite  evident.  The  historian 
of  Newbury,  Mr.  Walter  Money,  thinks  that 
it  is  connected  with  the  limits  of  the  fair 
granted  by  King  John  (1215  A.D.)  to  the 
Hospital  of  St.  Bartholomew.  The  profits 
of  the  fair,  which  is  opened  by  the  town- 
clerk  with  all  the  quaint  and  ancient  for- 
mality, still  are  given  to  the  brethren  and 
sisters  of  King  John's  Almshouses  attached 
to  the  hospital.  From  time  out  of  mind 
it  has  been  the  custom  to  elect  annually  with 
burlesque  formalities  a  "  Mayor  of  the  City." 
For  the  last  few  years  no  fresh  election  has 
taken  place,  but  the  custom  is  not  thought 
to  be  dead  by  the  "  citizens,"  but  only  in  a 
state  of  suspended  animation.  His  correct 
title  is  "  Mayor  of  Barthlemas."  St.  Anne's 
Day,  July  26th,  was  formerly  the  day  of  the 
election,  but  it  has  recently  been  changed  to 


November  9th,  in  compliment  perhaps  to  the 
mayor  of  another  city  somewhat  greater  than 
that  of  Newbury.  A  "Justice"  is  also  chosen, 
and  after  the  official  banquet,  at  which  beans 
and  bacon  formed  the  principal  dish,  a  pro- 
cession was  formed,  accompanied  by  a  band 
of  music,  the  town  officials  carrying  in  lieu 
of  a  mace  a  cabbage  on  a  stick  and  other 
emblems  of  civic  dignity.  This  procession 
has  now  been  discontinued.  "  Mock  Mayors  " 
used  to  exist  at  Aldershot  and  Farnham. 

A  fair  which  is  known  by  the  designation 
"  Onion  Fair "  is  still  held  at  Chertsey, 
Surrey,  on  September  25,  Holy  Rood  Day 
(old  style).  It  is  so  called  from  a  number 
of  onions  which  are  displayed  for  sale  at 
the  fair. 

Statute  fairs  are  held  in  Lincolnshire  and 
some  other  counties  for  the  purpose  of 
hiring  servants.  In  Yorkshire  and  Derby- 
shire they  used  to  be  very  common,  and 
were  accompanied  by  much  dissipation.  The 
servants  used  to  stand  in  rows,  the  males 
together  and  the  females  together,  and 
masters  and  mistresses  walked  down  the 
lines  and  selected  those  whom  they  considered 
suitable.  The  custom  seemed  to  savour  of 
slave-dealing,  and  the  mingling  of  so  many 
youths  and  maidens  in  a  strange  town  with- 
out guardianship  was  not  conducive  to  good 
morals.  Stratford-on-Avon  mop,  or  ancient 

Old  English   Customs 

statute,  fair  takes  place  annually  in  October, 
several  thousand  persons  being  present  from 
all  parts.  While  other  statute  fairs  have 
declined,  and  several  become  extinct,  that  at 
Stratford-on-Avon  has  increased  to  an  enor- 
mous extent,  and  is  said  to  be  the  largest 
in  England.  Five  oxen  and  ten  porkers  were 
on  the  last  occasion  roasted  in  front  of  large 
fireplaces  constructed  in  the  middle  of  the 
streets,  and  there  were  the  usual  holiday 
attractions.  The  men  in  Cumberland  who 
desired  to  be  hired  stood  in  the  fair  with 
a  straw  in  their  mouth,  according  to  the 
old  dialect  poem  :— 

"  Suin  at  Carel  (Carlisle)  I  stuid  wid  a  strae  i'  my 

An'  they  tuik  me,  nae  doubt,  for  a  promisin'  youth." 

Statute  fairs  are  fast  dying  out,  and  none 
but  the  commoner  sort  of  servants  now 
present  themselves  for  engagements  after  this 

Two  gingerbread  fairs  survived  in  Bir- 
mingham until  a  few  years  ago,  originally 
granted  in  1251  to  William  de  Bermingham 
by  Henry  III.,  to  be  held  at  Whitsuntide 
and  Michaelmas.  Long  lines  of  market- 
stalls,  loaded  with  various  sorts  of  ginger- 
bread, clustered  round  St.  Martin's  Church, 
and  attracted  crowds  of  buyers.  No  ginger- 
bread was  on  sale  at  any  other  times. 


The  town-crier  still  rings  his  bell  and 
calls  out,  "  O  yes,  O  yes,"  before  proclaiming 
the  object  which  he  is  commissioned  to 
announce.  This  is,  of  course,  a  corruption 
of  the  old  Norman  word  oyez,  and  signifies 
"  Hear  ye." 

As  a  relic  of  feudalism  we  may  quote  the 
following,  which,  according  to  ancient  custom, 
is  read  on  every  24th  day  of  October  at  the 
market-cross  at  Dalton-in-Furness  in  the 
presence  of  a  few  javelin-men: — "Thomas 
Woodburn,  steward  unto  the  most  noble  the 
Duke  of  Buccleuch  and  Queensberry,  lord 
of  the  late  dissolved  monastery  and  manor 
of  Furness  and  liberty  of  the  same,  strictly 
chargeth  and  commandeth  all  manner  of 
persons  repairing  to  the  fair,  of  what  estate 
or  degree  soever  he  or  they  may  be,  that 
they  and  every  of  them  keep  the  Queen's 
Majesty's  peace,  every  knight  upon  payment 
of  ^10,  every  esquire  and  gentleman  upon 
pain  of  ^5,  and  every  other  person  upon 
pain  of  405.  And  that  no  person  or  persons 
have  or  bear  any  habiliment  of  war,  steel 
coats,  bills,  or  battle-axes,  but  such  as  are 
appointed  to  attend  upon  the  said  steward 
during  the  present  fair.  And  that  none  do 
buy  or  sell  any  wares  but  by  such  yards  and 
wands  as  are,  or  shall  be,  delivered  unto 
them  by  the  bailiff  of  the  town  of  Dalton. 
And  the  fair  to  last  three  days,  whereof  this 

Old  English   Customs 

is  the  second ;  and  if  any  wrong  be  done 
or  offered  to  any  person  or  persons,  he  or 
they  may  repair  to  the  said  steward  to  have 
justice  ministered  unto  them  according  to 
law.  God  save  the  Queen  and  the  lord  of 
this  fair."  Subsequently  a  meeting  is  held 
at  the  castle,  and  the  juries  are  appointed 
for  various  purposes,  and  amongst  them 
two  gentlemen  are  selected  as  "  ale-tasters." 
They  are  bound  to  visit  all  the  public- 
houses  in  Dalton  and  taste  the  ale;  their 
omission  of  any  house  being  met  with  a 
fine.  They  make  a  report,  and  those  having 
the  best  ale  are  awarded  a  red  ribbon,  the 
second  best  obtaining  a  blue  ribbon.  During 
the  fair  red  and  blue  ribbon  ale  are  in  great 
demand.  It  is  said  that  this  custom  dates 
from  the  time  when  the  Abbot  of  Furness 
was  supplied  with  ale  fron  Dalton,  and  this 
was  regularly  tasted  by  specially  appointed 

During  the  present  year,  when  the  writer 
was  inspecting  a  village-school  in  Berkshire, 
he  met  with  the  following  old  charm,  which 
was  recited  by  one  of  the  children  as  his 
usual  form  of  daily  prayer  : — 

"  Matthew,  Mark,  Luke,  and  John, 
Bless  the  bed  that  I  lie  on  : 
Four  corners  to  my  bed, 
Four  angels  round  me  spread, 

Old  Charm 

One  to  sing,  and  one  to  pray, 

And  two  to  carry  my  soul  away : 

So  if  I  die  before  I  wake, 

I  pray  to  God  my  soul  to  take, 

For  Jesus  Christ  our  Saviour's  sake." 

These  words  are  very  ancient,  and  pro- 
bably date  from  a  period  long  anterior  to 
the  Reformation.  A  somewhat  similar  charm 
is  known  in  France,  and  used  by  the  people 
in  Poitou.  It  commences  : — 

"  Saint  Luc,  Saint  Marc,  et  Saint  Mathieu, 
Evange'listes  du  bon  Dieu, 
Gardez  les  quatre  coins  de  mon  lit, 
Pendant  toute  cette  nuit. — Ainsi  soit-il." 1 

Dr.  Lee  writes  that  more  than  a  dozen 
different,  and  sometimes  very  obscure  and 
rugged,  forms  of  this  prayer  were  current  in 
the  county  of  Bucks,  and  that  a  horn-book 
with  one  rude  version  was  found  in  one  of 
the  churches  there. 

Old-time  punishments,  with  their  various 
forms  of  barbarity,  are  happily  things  of 
the  past.  The  pillory,  stocks,  scold's  bridle, 
and  ducking-stool  are  usually  seen  in  local 
museums ;  but  it  appears  that  some  relics  of 
a  form  of  pillory  remain.  A  few  years  ago 
the  old-fashioned  custom  of  "  coking  "  was 
revived  at  Appleby,2  when  the  proprietor  of 

1  La  Revue  des  Traditions  Populaires,  November  1889. 
3  Westmorland  Gazette,  June  18,  1887. 


Old  English   Customs 

an  entire  horse  incurred  the  displeasure  of 
the  inhabitants  by  declining  to  pay  the  ac- 
customed charges.  He  was  therefore  duly 
haltered,  and  kept  in  durance  for  a  couple 
of  hours  at  one  of  the  ancient  hostelries  of 
the  town,  where  for  the  time  he  figured  as 
"  the  observed  of  all  observers,"  and  formed 
a  fund  of  amusement  for  the  many  country- 
folks attending  the  market. 

The  curious  custom  of  wiping  the  shoes 
of  a  person  who  visits  a  market  for  the  first 
time  is  observed  at  Brixham,  where  a  few  years 
ago  the  late  Prince  Henry  of  Battenberg, 
when  watching  the  sale  of  some  smoked  fish, 
had  his  shoes  wiped  by  a  fishwoman  with  her 
apron.  He  was  then  required  to  "  pay  his 
footing."  The  same  custom  prevails  in  the 
cornfields  and  hop-gardens  of  Kent,  where 
the  women,  after  wiping  the  visitor's  shoes 
with  a  wisp  of  straw,  a  hop-bind,  or  an 
apron,  require  him  to  pay  his  footing.  If 
a  gentleman  refuses  to  comply  with  the 
custom,  he  is  seized  by  the  enraged  Amazons 
and  deposited  in  a  hop-basket,  where  he  is 
left  to  meditate  upon  the  iniquity  of  some 
old-established  usages  and  the  unwisdom  of 
refusing  to  comply  with  them. 

Raffling  for  Bibles  continues  still  in  the 

parish  church  of  St.  Ives,  Huntingdonshire. 

In  the  year  1675  Dr.  Wilde  bequeathed  the 

sum  of  ^50  for  the  purpose  of  providing 


Raffling  for  Bibles 

Bibles  for  poor  children,  to  be  raffled  for  in 
church.  A  piece  of  land,  still  called  "  Bible- 
orchard,"  was  purchased  with  the  money, 
with  the  rent  of  which  the  books  are  bought, 
and  a  small  sum  paid  to  the  vicar  for  preach- 
ing a  special  sermon.  The  vicar  directs  the 
proceedings,  and  twelve  children  cast  dice  for 
the  six  Bibles  awarded.  We  believe  that 
owing  to  the  action  of  the  Charity  Com- 
missioners a  similar  custom  in  a  London 
church  has  just  been  discontinued. 

Belief  in  witchcraft  and  in  the  power  of 
the  evil-eye  is  not  yet  dead  in  England,  and 
numerous  instances  might  be  given  of  strange 
credulity  and  lingering  superstitions  which 
School  Boards  and  modern  enlightenment 
have  not  yet  eradicated.  But  charms  and 
omens  and  popular  superstition  belong  to 
the  study  of  folk-lore,  and  can  scarcely  be 
classed  with  existing  customs.  We  may  men- 
tion, however,  the  Witch's  Obelisk  in  Delaval 
Avenue,  Northumberland,  round  which  boys 
are  accustomed  to  run  in  the  hope  of  "  raising 
the  witch."  It  is  believed  that  if  any  one 
succeeds  in  running  round  the  obelisk  seven 
times  without  drawing  breath,  the  witch  will 
appear.  But  as  the  seven  circles  mean  a 
distance  of  a  hundred  yards,  her  chances  of 
being  disturbed  are  somewhat  remote. 

A  curious  gipsy  custom  is  worthy  of 
record.  When  a  gipsy  dies,  it  appears  that 

Old  English   Customs 

his  effects  should  be  burnt ;  at  least  such 
was  the  custom  performed  at  Withernsea  on 
1 2th  September  1894.  A  member  of  the 
party  of  gipsies  known  as  Fiddler  Jack  died 
amidst  much  lamentation  of  his  comrades. 
After  their  return  from  the  funeral  they 
proceeded  to  burn  his  effects.  Waggon, 
clothes,  bedding,  a  set  of  china  and  his 
fiddle,  were  all  consumed  in  the  flames.  This 
strange  custom,  which  is  of  great  antiquity, 
is  said  to  have  originated  in  order  to  prevent 
quarrelling  among  the  relatives,  and  also  that 
the  widow  might  not  be  wooed  for  the 
property  she  might  possess.  It  is  also  stated 
that  the  widow  must,  for  a  period  of  three 
months,  depend  entirely  upon  herself  for 
sustenance,  and  in  no  way  participate  in  any 
of  the  earnings  of  her  relatives.  The  same 
custom  of  burning  the  effects  of  defunct 
gipsies  was  observed  in  the  case  of  the 
dead  queen  of  a  gipsy  band  encamped  near 
Elizabeth,  NJ.  All  her  belongings  were 
burnt  in  June  1884,  which  included  silk 
and  satin  dresses,  jewellery,  lace,  a  waggon, 
and  other  possessions  which  were  valued  at 
2500  dollars. 

A  very  pleasing  custom  exists  in  some 
places,  showing  a  true  kindly  disposition  and 
that  good-nature  which  usually  characterises 
country-folk  in  their  dealings  with  each 
other.  When  a  farmer  takes  a  new  farm 

Ploughing   Custom 

on  lease,  his  neighbours  give  him  the  com- 
pliment of  a  day's  ploughing.  Seventy  or 
a  hundred  ploughmen  would  appear  on  a 
certain  day,  and  turn  over  the  stubble  for 
the  new  tenant.  This  was  done  recently  at 
Mouldshaugh,  Felton,  and  at  Bartlehill  and 
Kingsrigg.  This  is  probably  a  revival,  and 
not  a  survival  of  primitive  usages. 


Court  customs  —  Epiphany  customs  —  Maundy 
custom  —  Coronation  customs  —  Royal  births — 
Royal  funerals. 

1  HE  ceremonial  of  courts  still  preserves 
many  interesting  and  ancient  customs,  some 
of  which  date  back  to  remote  antiquity.  In 
memory  of  the  Magi's  offering,  on  the  Feast 
of  the  Epiphany  in  the  Chapel  Royal,  St. 
James's,  the  monarch  of  England  presents 
at  the  altar  the  customary  gifts  of  gold, 
frankincense,  and  myrrh.  For  many  cen- 
turies this  was  done  by  the  sovereign  himself, 
George  III.  being  the  last  king  who  appeared 
in  person ;  now  the  offerings  are  presented 
by  two  officers  of  the  Lord  Chamberlain 
attended  by  the  yeomen  of  the  guard  or 
4 'beefeaters."  While  the  offertory  sentences 
are  being  read,  the  representatives  of  royalty 
bring  up  three  purses  and  lay  them  on  the 
alms-dish  held  by  the  celebrant,  who  pre- 
sents them  on  the  altar.  Formerly  the 
purses  contained  gold  in  the  leaf,  frank- 
incense and  myrrh,  which  were  deposited  in 
a  round  box  covered  with  silk.  The  box 


Court  Customs 

is  no  longer  used,  and  instead  of  the  gold 
leaf  there  are  thirty  pounds  in  gold,  which 
are  given  to  the  poor  of  the  parish.  This  is 
an  interesting  survival  of  a  very  ancient 

In  memory  of  the  lowly  act  of  the 
Saviour  of  mankind  in  stooping  to  wash  the 
feet  of  the  disciples  at  the  Last  Supper,  on 
Maundy  Thursday  the  sovereigns  of  Eng- 
land used  to  wash  the  feet  of  several  poor 
people  with  much  solemn  pomp  and  re- 
ligious observance.  Although  the  actual 
washing  has  been  discontinued,  some  portion 
of  the  custom  is  still  observed.  A  special 
service  is  held  in  Westminster  Abbey.1  A 
procession  is  formed  in  the  nave,  consisting 
of  the  Lord  High  Almoner,  representing 
Her  Majesty,  attended  by  his  officials,  the 
yeomen  of  the  guard,  and  the  clergy  of  the 
Abbey.  During  the  course  of  the  service 
two  distributions  of  alms  are  made  to  a 
company  of  old  men  and  women,  the  num- 
ber of  each  sex  corresponding  to  the  age 
of  the  sovereign.  The  first  distribution  in 
lieu  of  clothing  consists  of  355.  to  each 
woman  and  455.  to  each  man.  The  second 
distribution  is  of  red  and  white  purses,  the 
red  containing  £i,  and  £i,  ics.  in  gold, 

1  The  service  was  formerly  held  in  the  Chapel  Royal, 
Whitehall ;  since  the  abolition  of  that  chapel  it  has  been  held 
at  Westminster. 

257  R 

Old  English   Customs 

an  allowance  in  lieu  of  provisions  formerly 
given  in  kind.  The  white  purses  contain 
as  many  pence  as  Her  Majesty  is  years  of 
age,  the  amount  being  furnished  in  silver 
pennies,  twopences,  threepences,  and  four- 
pences.  These  purses  are  carried  in  baskets 
on  the  heads  of  the  beefeaters  in  procession, 
and  then  distributed  by  the  Lord  High 
Almoner.  Some  of  the  officials  wear  white 
scarves  in  memory  of  the  linen  towel  with 
which  our  Lord  girded  Himself  when  He 
stooped  to  perform  His  lowly  act  of  washing 
His  followers'  feet.  The  minor  bounty  and 
royal  gate  alms  are  distributed  at  the  Royal 
Almonry  to  upwards  of  a  thousand  aged, 
disabled,  and  meritorious  people. 

In  Vienna  the  same  ceremony  is  performed 
with  much  elaborate  detail.  It  is  known  as 
the  Fusswaschung^  or  the  washing  the  feet 
of  twelve  poor  men  by  the  Emperor.  This 
takes  place  in  full  state  at  the  Imperial 
Palace  on  Maundy  Thursday.  "Apart  from 
its  religious  aspect,  the  ceremony  is  of  most 
imposing  interest.  At  ten  o'clock  the  doors 
leading  into  the  hall  were  opened  to  admit 
a  most  remarkable  procession.  Twelve  old 
men,  bent  and  worn,  the  youngest  of  whom 
was  89  and  the  oldest  96,  tottered  into  the 
hall,  supported  and  guided  each  by  two 
relatives  (mostly  women),  who  assisted  the 
poor  old  creatures  to  mount  the  one  step 


Epiphany  Customs 

leading  to  the  dais,  and  conducted  them  to 
their  allotted  seats.  It  was  almost  pathetic 
to  watch  the  old  men  glancing  timidly  at 
the  brilliant  throng  of  officers  facing  them. 
The  next  act  in  this  remarkable  spectacle 
was  the  entry  of  some  twenty  Knights  of 
the  Teutonic  Order  of  '  Deutsche  Herren,' 
headed  by  their  Master,  the  Archduke  Eugen. 
Each  was  attired  in  white,  with  a  long  black 
cross  woven  on  the  breast  of  the  doublet, 
and  another  black  cross  on  the  white  cloak 
hanging  down  from  the  shoulders.  These 
Crusaders  having  lined  the  middle  of  the 
hall,  made  way  for  the  Ministers  and  the 
Emperor's  general  staff.  Then  followed 
the  Primate  of  Austria,  with  priests  and 
acolytes  bearing  incense  and  candles,  and 
lastly  the  Emperor  Francis  Joseph.  The 
Emperor,  who  wore  the  white  tunic  of  an 
Austrian  general,  walked  to  the  table  where 
the  old  men  remained  seated,  and  addressed 
a  few  words  to  them.  Twelve  guardsmen 
advanced  through  the  hall,  each  bearing  a 
tray  on  which  was  piled  the  first  course  of 
a  sumptuous  repast.  The  Emperor,  giving 
his  helmet  to  an  officer,  himself  unloaded 
each  tray  as  he  passed  down  the  line  of 
guards,  and  with  the  deftness  of  a  practised 
waiter  arranged  the  dishes  of  cold  viands 
before  each  of  his  guests.  When  this  task 
was  accomplished,  the^  guards  formed  up 

Old  English   Customs 

again  with  the  empty  trays,  and  twelve 
Archdukes  advanced  to  the  table  and  re- 
moved the  untouched  dishes  from  before 
the  eyes  of  the  old  men.  Eventually  the 
tables  were  removed  to  make  room  for 
the  Fusswaschung.  The  slippers  which  en- 
cased the  old  men's  feet  were  taken  off, 
and  a  priest  came  forward  bearing  a  golden 
basin  filled  with  water  and  a  towel.  The 
Emperor  then  knelt  down  before  the  oldest 
of  his  guests,  applying  the  moistened  towel 
to  his  feet,  and,  still  kneeling,  passed  on  to 
the  next  in  order  and  down  the  whole  line 
till  all  had  been  ministered  to.  It  was  a 
strange  sight,  and  one  never  to  be  forgotten, 
that  of  the  ruler  of  a  mighty  empire  on  his 
knees  before  the  humblest  of  his  subjects, 
and  surrounded  by  all  the  pomp  and  circum- 
stance of  a  brilliant  court.  The  last  act 
of  the  ceremony  was  the  placing  round  the 
neck  of  each  old  man  by  the  Emperor  of  a 
chain,  to  which  was  attached  a  small  white 
bag  containing  thirty  pieces  of  silver." 

In  former  times  it  was  not  sovereigns  only 
who  observed  this  custom.  Cardinal  Wolsey 
in  1530  made  his  Maund  in  Our  Lady's 
Chapel,  having  first  washed  the  feet  of  fifty- 
nine  poor  men;  and  the  Earl  of  Northum- 
berland gave  gifts  of  clothing  to  as  many 
poor  men  as  he  was  years  of  age,  as  well 
as  a  platter  with  meat,  an  ashen  cup  filled 

Coronation   Customs 

with  wine,  and  a  purse  containing  as  many 
pennies  as  he  was  years  old.1 

Court  customs  in  connection  with  the 
coronation  of  the  sovereign  were  formerly 
numerous  and  remarkable.  How  many  will 
be  retained  when  our  beloved  Queen  shall 
have  passed  away  and  her  successor  comes 
to  the  throne,  it  is  impossible  to  foretell. 
Her  loyal  subjects  trust  that  that  day  may 
be  long  deferred ;  but  when  our  future 
sovereign  is  crowned,  it  is  to  be  hoped  that 
at  least  all  the  accustomed  ceremonies  will 
be  observed  which  graced  the  coronation  of 
Queen  Victoria.  Some  of  them  we  will 
now  enumerate. 

The  form  of  words  used  in  the  summons 
addressed  to  the  peers  of  the  realm  ordering 
them  to  attend  the  coronation  is  worthy  of 
record.  "  Right  trusty  and  right  entirely 
beloved  cousin,  we  greet  you  well,  and  com- 
mand you  to  appear,  &c.  ...  all  excuses 
set  apart."  Each  rank  of  nobility  has  its 
own  title  of  greeting,  such  as  "  cousins  and 
councillors ; "  the  barons  are  "  councillors  " 
but  not  cousins.  Recollections  of  the  ancient 
days  of  chivalry  are  revived  by  the  words  of 
homage  which  the  spiritual  peers  are  required 
to  use : — "  I,  Bishop  of ,  will  be  faith- 
ful and  true,  and  faith  and  truth  will  bear 
unto  you,  our  Sovereign  Lady  and  Queen,  and 

1  Cf.  Notes  and  Queries^  7th  Series,  xi.,  June  6,  1891. 

Old  English   Customs 

your  heirs,  kings  and  queens  of  the  United 
Kingdom  of  Great  Britain  and  Ireland ;  and 
I  will  and  do  acknowledge  the  service  of  the 
lands  which  I  hold  of  you  as  in  right  of  the 
Church."  The  peers  show  their  homage  by 
kissing  the  hand  of  the  sovereign,  touching 
the  crown,  and  repeating  the  words  : — "  I,  of 

,  do  become  your  liegeman  of  life  and 

limb,  and  of  earthly  worship ;  and  faith  and 
truth  I  will  bear  unto  you,  to  live  and  die 
against  all  manner  of  folks.  So  help  me 

By  hereditary  right  many  persons  have 
special  dignities  and  duties  at  the  coronation 
of  a  sovereign,  and  a  special  Court  of  Claims 
is  appointed  to  investigate  these  ancient 
rights  and  privileges. 

The  Duke  of  Norfolk  is  entitled  to  hold 
the  honoured  office  of  Earl  Marshal,  which 
allows  him  the  attendance  of  an  escort  of 
cavalry  in  all  state  functions.  Hi's  privilege 
as  lord  of  the  manor  of  Worksop  is  to  pre- 
sent a  glove  and  support  the  sovereign's  arm 
when  holding  the  sceptre,  and  also  to  hold 
the  office  of  chief  butler,  which  entitles  him 
to  receive  a  cup  of  pure  gold.  The  Duke  of 
Newcastle,  we  believe,  now  holds  the  manor 
of  Worksop,  and  would  therefore  be  entitled 
to  support  the  sovereign's  arm  at  the  next 

The  Lord  Mayor  of  London  claims  to 

Coronation   Customs 

present  a  gold  cup  of  wine  to  the  sovereign, 
which  he  is  empowered  to  keep,  and  also  the 
Mayor  of  Oxford  receives  a  similar  gift. 

The  Dean  and  Chapter  of  Westminster 
claim  the  right  to  instruct  the  sovereign  in 
the  ceremonial  duties,  and  have  charge  of  the 
regalia.  The  huge  stage-coach  is  used  on 
these  occasions.  Special  robes  of  state  are 
preserved  in  St.  James's  Palace  under  the 
charge  of  the  keeper  of  the  robes,  and  are 
worn  by  the  sovereign  at  the  coronation. 

The  ceremony  of  enthroning  is  called 
"  lifting  to  the  throne,"  derived  from  the 
manner  of  our  Anglo-Saxon  forefathers,  who, 
when  their  king  was  enthroned,  lifted  him 
from  the  ground.  There  are  several  royal 
crowns  among  the  regalia  in  the  Tower  of 
London,  but  at  the  last  coronation  only  one, 
the  Imperial  crown,  was  used  and  placed 
upon  the  head  of  the  sovereign.  The  royal 
sceptre  is  placed  in  the  right  hand,  and  the 
rod  of  equity,  adorned  with  a  dove,  is  held 
in  the  left  hand  of  the  enthroned  monarch. 
The  sword  of  state l  is  placed  on  the  altar 
and  redeemed  for  one  hundred  shillings. 
This  is  carried  before  the  sovereign  on  all 
state  functions.  The  orb,  the  ancient  en- 
sign of  the  Roman  emperors,  surmounted 

1  In  addition  to  this  sword  there  are  three  other  swords  of 
state — that  of  spiritual  justice,  that  of  temporal  justice,  and  the 
pointless  sword  of  mercy  or  cttrtana. 

Old  English   Customs 

by  a  cross,  is  delivered  with  these  words  :  "As 
is  this  orb  set  under  the  cross,  so  the  whole 
world  is  subject  to  the  power  and  empire 
of  Christ  our  Lord."  An  ancient  relic  made 
of  gold,  St.  Edward's  staff,  which  is  said  to 
contain  a  portion  of  the  true  cross,  is  car- 
ried in  the  procession.  The  most  solemn 
function  of  all  is  the  anointing,  during  which 
ceremony  four  Knights  of  the  Garter  hold  a 
canopy  over  the  sovereign,  while  the  Arch- 
bishop pours  the  anointing  oil  with  a  spoon, 
which  is  the  most  ancient  of  all  the  regalia, 
and  with  which  many  monarchs  have  been 
anointed.  A  ruby  ring  is  placed  on  the 
sovereign's  fourth  finger  of  the  right  hand, 
signifying  that  the  monarch  is  thus  wedded 
to  the  nation.  Certain  offerings  are  made, 
among  which  are  an  ingot  of  gold  and  an 
altar  pall  "  composed  of  ten  yards  of  gold 
barred,  gold  frosted  flowered  brocade,  lined 
with  rich  sarsenet,  and  with  deep  gold  fringe." 
The  oaken  chair  on  which  the  sovereign 
is  seated  has  been  in  use  since  the  time  of 
Edward  II.,  and  beneath  it  is  the  Coronation 
Stone  which  was  conveyed  to  Westminster 
from  Scotland  by  Edward  I. ;  a  wild  legend 
declares  it  to  be  the  stone  on  which  Jacob  laid 
his  head  when  he  slept  at  Bethel.  Amongst 
the  curious  claims  of  service  may  be  mentioned 
that  of  the  Barons  of  the  Cinque  Ports  to 
hold  a  canopy  over  the  sovereign ;  the  Baron 

Coronation   Customs 

Grey  de  Ruthyn  to  carry  the  great  spurs;  the 
Duke  of  Athol  to  present  a  cast  of  falcons ; 
the  Archbishop  of  Canterbury,  in  right  of 
holding  the  manor  of  Addington,  to  make  a 
mess  of  pottage  called  Dillegrout.     But  the 
strangest  survival  of  all  is  the  claim  of  the 
Dymoke  family  to  the  office  of  King's  Cham- 
pion.    His  duty  is  to  appear  on  horseback 
in  full  armour  at  the  royal  banquet  after  the 
coronation,  accompanied  by  the  Earl  Marshal 
and  the  Lord  High  Constable.     The  cham- 
pion then  makes  the  following  challenge  : — 
"  If  any  person,  of  what  degree  soever,  high 
or  low,  shall  deny  or  gainsay  our  Sovereign 
Lord  .  .  .  to  be  rightful  heir  to  the  Imperial 
crown  of  the  United  Kingdom,  or  that  he  ought 
not  to  enjoy  the  same,  here  is  his  champion, 
who  saith  he  lieth  sore  and  is  a  false  traitor, 
being  ready  in  person  to  combat  with  him." 
The  champion  then,  after  the  ancient  manner, 
throws  down  his  gauntlet.      The  challenge 
not  being  accepted,  the  sovereign  drinks  the 
health  of  the  champion  in  a  silver  cup,  which 
is  presented  to  the  brave  defender  of  English 
monarchy,  who  then  backs  his  horse  out  of 
the  hall.     It  is  impossible  to  say  how  many 
of  these  old  customs  will  be  retained  at  the 
next  coronation,  but  it  may  be  allowed  to  a 
lover  of  ancient  ceremonial  to  hope  that  old 
forms  and  rites  consecrated  by  time  will  not 
be  abandoned. 


Old  English   Customs 

At  the  birth  of  a  member  of  the  royal 
family  it  is  customary  for  the  Lord  Mayor 
of  London,  the  City  authorities,  and  the 
chief  officers  of  state  to  attend  to  testify  to 
the  actuality  of  the  event.  The  partaking 
of  caudle  at  the  palace  by  all  distinguished 
visitors  is  also  an  ancient  custom,  which  was 
practised  when  the  Prince  of  Wales  was  born. 

It  is  but  a  step  from  the  cradle  to  the  grave, 
and  royal  funerals  are  celebrated  with  some 
strange  customs.  They  used  to  be  performed 
at  night,  while  the  torches  of  the  soldiers 
shed  a  weird  light  around.  The  titles  of  the 
royal  dead  are  recited  by  the  Garter  King- 
at-Arms,  and  the  officers  of  the  household 
break  their  rods  of  office,  and  lay  them  on 
the  coffin  before  it  is  lowered  to  its  last 
resting-place.  However,  we  believe  that  these 
ceremonies  have  not  been  performed  on  the 
occasion  of  recent  royal  funerals ;  nor  has 
the  caudle-cup  been  used  in  the  palace  since 
the  birth  of  the  present  heir-apparent. 



Parliamentary  customs — Searching  the  House — 
Introducing  new  member — Hat  ceremony — "  Who 
goes  home  ?  " — Royal  assent  to  Bills — Ceremony 
of  opening  Parliament — Installation  of  Speaker 
— Introduction  of  new  Peers  in  House  of  Lords 
—  Woolsack. 

1  HE  House  of  Commons  is  usually  sup- 
posed to  be  the  most  modernised  of  all  insti- 
tutions, and  flatters  itself  upon  being  a  very 
"  up-to-date  "  assembly.  Still  many  quaint 
and  curious  customs  linger  which  are  worthy 
of  record. 

On  the  morning  that  Parliament  is  to 
begin  business,  and  at  half-past  ten,  there 
assemble  in  the  Prince's  Chamber  of  the 
Palace  of  Westminster  a  military  officer,  four 
marshalmen,  and  ten  "  beefeaters  "  or  yeomen 
of  the  guard.  These  last,  with  their  quaint 
Tudor  costume,  are  familiar  to  every  visitor 
to  the  Tower  of  London.  The  marshalmen, 
with  their  frock-coats  and  tall  hats  (of  the 
pattern  Leech  has  immortalised  in  his  various 
pictures  of  the  metropolitan  police),  are  known 
only  to  those  who  have  admission  by  the 
peers1  entrance  to  the  House  of  Lords,  inside 

Old  English   Customs 

which  two  of  them  stand  during  each  sitting, 
or  who  attend  state  functions  at  Buckingham 
and  St.  James's  Palaces,  whereat  they  likewise 
do  duty.  With  this  band  of  fifteen  are  joined 
the  resident  engineer  of  the  palace  of  West- 
minster, the  chief  inspector  of  the  parlia- 
mentary police,  and  the  attendants  upon  the 
House  of  Lords;  and,  after  a  lantern  has 
been  served  to  each,  there  comes  to  them  the 
Gentleman  Usher  of  the  Black  Rod,  or,  as  is 
now  more  usual,  the  Yeoman  Usher,  with 
the  secretary  to  the  Lord  High  Chamberlain, 
the  high  official  who  has  charge  of  this  royal 
palace.  "  Prepare  for  a  search,"  is  the  order 
given  by  the  Lord  Chamberlain's  secretary; 
and,  in  full  remembrance  that  it  was  under 
the  peers'  chamber  that  Guy  Fawkes  was 
found,  but  utterly  ignoring  the  electric  light 
which  is  now  ablaze  throughout  the  building, 
the  procession  moves  from  the  Prince's  Cham- 
ber to  the  House  of  Lords.  With  their 
lanterns  dimly  burning,  the  beefeaters  scan 
each  corner  and  peer  under  every  bench,  the 
chief  inspector  looking  on  meanwhile  with 
the  serene  satisfaction  of  knowing  that  the 
men  under  his  orders  have  kept  the  place 
secure  from  explosive  intrusion.  From  the 
House  of  Lords  the  procession  wends  its  way 
through  the  central  hall  to  the  House  of 
Commons,  and  then,  by  way  of  the  steps 
at  the  back  of  the  chair,  to  the  first  floor, 

Parliamentary  Customs 

and  next  to  the  basement.  Room  after 
room  in  the  most  intricately  arranged  build- 
ing ever  devised  is  there  searched  until 
those  beneath  the  House  of  Lords  have 
been  dealt  with;  and  then,  with  a  parting 
inspection  of  the  huge  Victoria  Tower,  the 
marshalmen  and  beefeaters  find  their  way 
once  more  into  the  courtyard,  and  there 

The  Members'  lobby  and  the  central  hall 
alike  grow  filled  as  two  o'clock  approaches,  for 
that  is  always  the  hour  fixed  for  the  opening 
ceremony.  Greetings  are  cordially  exchanged 
between  those  who  have  not  met  for  months ; 
the  resemblance  of  the  scene  to  a  school  re- 
assembling after  the  holidays  strikes  as  a  fresh 
inspiration  every  journalist  who  happens  to 
be  present  for  the  first  time ;  and  the  roar  of 
cheery  voices  rises  higher  and  higher  until,  a 
few  minutes  before  two,  the  deep  voice  of 
a  constable  is  heard  from  the  library  corri- 
dor to  exclaim  "  Speaker  !  "  with  the  second 
syllable  indefinitely  prolonged.  Then  a  hush 
falls  upon  all,  and,  at  the  police  direction, 
"  Hats  off,  strangers,"  each  visitor  to  the 
lobby  (including  the  constables  themselves, 
and  virtually  every  member)  doffs  his  head- 
gear as,  preceded  by  the  sergeant-at-arms 
bearing  the  mace,  and  followed  by  his  chap- 
lain and  his  private  secretary,  the  Speaker,  in 
full  wig  and  robes,  and  with  cocked-hat  in 

Old  English   Customs 

hand,  sweeps  by  through  the  lobby  into  the 

When  a  new  member  is  admitted,  he  is 
escorted  to  the  table  by  two  members.  This 
immemorial  custom  originated  in  a  distant 
past,  when  it  was  necessary  to  avoid  persona- 
tion. This  precaution  is,  of  course,  now 
entirely  unnecessary,  but  the  custom  still 

The  use  of  the  hat  is  an  important  feature 
of  parliamentary  observance  and  ceremonial, 
and  a  breach  of  custom  is  always  hailed  with 
loud  cries  of  "  Order,  order."  Contrary  to 
the  manners  of  ordinary  individuals,  members 
of  Parliament  are  required  to  put  on  their 
hat  when  seated  in  the  House,  and  to  take  it 
off  when  they  rise  up  to  speak  or  to  leave  the 
assembly.  When  a  member  retires  from  par- 
liamentary life,  he  is  called  upon  to  accept 
the  nominal  office  of  the  Stewardship  of  the 
Chiltern  Hundreds.  The  ceremony  at  the 
close  of  each  sitting  reminds  one  of  the  dark 
lanes  and  dangerous  corners  of  Old  London, 
when  the  journey  homewards  was  attended 
with  some  difficulty  and  danger.  The  mo- 
ment the  House  adjourns  its  sittings,  the 
messengers  and  policemen  shout  "  Who  goes 
home?"  For  centuries  this  cry  has  been 
heard,  and  recalls  the  time  when  the  members 
were  obliged  to  go  home  in  parties  because 
of  the  footpads  who  infested  the  London 

Parliamentary  Customs 

streets,  and  who  were  not  much  alarmed  by 
the  presence  of  the  City  watchmen.  The 
question  is  still  heard,  but  no  one  answers. 

There  are  few  things  more  impressive  or 
instructive  in  their  way  than  the  manner  of 
the  clerks  in  the  House  of  Lords  when  going 
through  the  ceremony  of  giving  the  royal 
assent  to  Bills.  Standing  at  either  side  of 
the  table,  one  clerk  reads  out  the  names  of 
the  Bills,  The  other,  first  bending  low  to 
the  Royal  Commissioners,  half  turns  his  head 
towards  the  Speaker  and  the  Commons 
assembled  at  the  Bar,  and  almost  flings  at 
them  the  phrase,  La  Reyne  le  veult.  Then 
turning  again  to  the  Royal  Commissioners, 
he  reverentially  bows  with  implied  apology 
for  having  held  even  such  slight  communica- 
tion with  commoner  people.  The  formula, 
gone  through  precisely  in  the  same  way  a 
score  or  a  hundred  times,  according  to  the 
number  of  Bills  receiving  the  assent,  becomes 
in  the  end  exasperatingly  comical. 

The  ceremonial  prescribed  by  ancient  usage 
at  the  opening  of  a  new  Parliament  is  both 
picturesque  and  significant,  and  the  forms  of 
election  and  installation  of  the  Speaker  have 
most  historical  impressiveness.  Struggles 
between  the  Crown  and  the  rights  of  the 
people  have  long  since  passed  away,  but  the 
results  of  long  centuries  of  contest  are  em- 
bodied in  the  assurance  conveyed  to  the 

Old  English   Customs 

representative  of  the  Commons  by  the  Lord 
Chancellor  in  the  words,  "  That  Her  Majesty 
does  most  readily  confirm  all  the  rights  and 
privileges  which  have  ever  been  granted  to 
the  Commons  by  any  of  her  royal  pre- 
decessors, and  that  as  regards  the  Speaker 
himself,  Her  Majesty  will  ever  be  pleased  to 
place  the  most  favourable  construction  on 
his  words  and  actions." 

The  usual  form  adopted  for  the  regular 
installation  of  the  Speaker  is  worthy  of  re- 
cord. The  Speaker-elect  enters  the  House 
of  Commons  attired  in  court  dress,  wearing 
a  barrister's  wig,  accompanied  by  the  ser- 
geant-at-arms  bearing  the  mace  over  his 
shoulder.  The  mace  is  then  deposited  on 
the  table.  Then  the  yeoman-usher  of  the 
black  rod  is  announced,  who  bows  and 
advances  to  the  clerk's  table,  and  requests 
the  attendance  of  "the  Honourable  House 
in  the  House  of  Peers."  All  the  members 
present  rise  to  their  feet,  and  the  Speaker- 
elect  descends  from  the  chair,  and,  preceded 
by  the  sergeant-at-arms,  carrying  the  mace 
in  the  hollow  of  his  arm,  walks  to  the  House 
of  Lords.  Here  he  addresses  the  Royal 
Commissioners,  and  says : — "  My  Lords,  I 
have  to  acquaint  your  Lordships  that,  in 
obedience  to  the  royal  commands,  Her 
Majesty's  faithful  Commons,  in  the  exercise 
of  their  undoubted  rights  and  privileges, 

Parliamentary  Customs 

have  proceeded  to  the  election  of  a  Speaker. 
Their  choice  has  fallen  upon  myself.  I 
therefore  present  myself  at  your  Lordships' 
Bar,  and  humbly  submit  myself  to  Her 
Majesty's  gracious  approbation."  The  Lord 
Chancellor  answers  : — "  We  are  commanded 
to  assure  you  that  Her  Majesty  is  so  fully 
sensible  of  your  zeal  for  the  public  service, 
and  of  your  undoubted  efficiency  to  execute 
the  arduous  duties  which  her  faithful  Com- 
mons have  selected  you  to  discharge,  that 
she  most  readily  confirms  the  choice  they 
have  made."  The  Speaker  then  says  : — "  I 
humbly  submit  myself  to  Her  Majesty's 
gracious  commands,  and  it  is  now  my  duty, 
in  the  name  and  on  behalf  of  the  Commons 
of  the  United  Kingdom,  to  lay  claim,  by 
humble  petition  to  Her  Majesty,  to  all  their 
undoubted  rights  and  privileges,  especially 
to  freedom  of  speech  in  debate,  to  freedom 
from  arrest,  and,  above  all,  to  free  access  to 
Her  Majesty  whenever  occasion  may  require 
it,  and  that  the  most  favourable  construction 
may  be  put  upon  all  their  proceedings ;  and, 
for  myself,  I  pray  that  if,  in  the  discharge  of 
my  duties,  I  inadvertently  fall  into  any  error, 
the  blame  may  be  imputed  to  me  alone,  and 
not  to  Her  Majesty's  faithful  Commons." 
The  Lord  Chancellor  replies  :  —  "  Mr. 
Speaker,  we  have  it  further  in  command 
to  assure  you  that  Her  Majesty  does  most 
273  s 

Old  English   Customs 

readily  confirm  all  the  rights  and  privileges 
which  have  ever  been  granted  to  the  Com- 
mons by  any  of  her  royal  predecessors ;  and 
that,  with  respect  to  yourself,  sir,  though 
you  do  not  stand  in  need  of  any  such  assur- 
ance, Her  Majesty  will  ever  be  pleased  to 
place  the  most  favourable  construction  on 
your  words  and  actions."  The  Speaker, 
having  made  the  customary  obeisance  to  the 
Royal  Commissioners,  then  withdraws,  and 
announces  to  the  Commons  the  approval  by 
Her  Majesty  of  the  selection  of  himself  as 
Speaker  of  the  House,  and  of  the  granting 
of  the  ancient  rights  and  privileges  to  her 
faithful  Commons  which  had  been  granted 
and  conferred  by  Her  Majesty,  or  by  any  of 
her  royal  predecessors.  Thus  the  important 
ceremony  ends. 

The  ceremony  attending  the  formal  intro- 
duction of  new  peers  into  the  House  of 
Lords  is  not  devoid  of  interest.  They  enter 
the  House  in  procession  with  their  sponsors, 
all  wearing  their  robes  of  scarlet  and  ermine, 
and  being  preceded  by  Garter  King-at- 
Arms  and  the  Duke  of  Norfolk,  Hereditary 
Earl  Marshal,  in  their  official  robes.  Each 
presents  his  patent  and  writ  of  summons  to 
the  Lord  Chancellor,  kneeling  before  the 
woolsack,  and  each  patent  and  writ  are  read 
by  the  reading  clerk.  After  taking  the 
oath  of  allegiance  and  subscribing  the  roll, 

Parliamentary   Customs 

they  are  conducted  to  the  seats  of  their  re- 
spective ranks,  when  they  salute  the  Lord 
Chancellor  three  times,  and  are  afterwards 
formally  introduced  to  him. 

The  origin  of  the  woolsack  is  said  to  date 
from  the  time  of  Elizabeth,  when  an  Act  of 
Parliament  was  passed  to  prevent  the  expor- 
tation of  wool.  In  order  to  keep  in  mind 
this  source  of  our  national  wealth,  wool- 
sacks were  placed  in  the  House  of  Lords, 
whereon  the  judges  sit. 



Curious  doles — Plums  at  Christmas — Dorsetshire 
custom — Gloves  for  the  parson — Bread  and  cheese 
for  all — Scrambling  charity — Figs  and  ale — 
Pork  and  petticoats  —  Old  love- feasts — Bull- 
baiting — Poor  seamen — Lamps  in  London — 
Washing  Molly  Grime — Predilection  for  colours 
—  Tombstone  chanty — Priso?iers  at  Newgate — 
Redeeming  English  slaves  —  Maid-servants  — 
Musical  bequest — "  Lion  Sermon  " — Pax  Cake — 
National  events — Dancing  round  John  KniWs 
tomb — Dole  at  Hospital  of  St.  Cross  at  Win- 

IN  no  other  way  is  the  eccentricity  of  human 
nature  more  clearly  manifested  than  in  the 
peculiar  methods  which  men  have  devised 
for  benefiting  mankind.  We  have  already 
noticed  some  strange  bequests  and  remarkable 
charities,  and  now  propose  to  record  others. 
The  Charity  Commissioners  have  in  recent 
years  diverted  several  charities  from  their 
original  applications,  and,  in  some  cases,  the 
wishes  of  the  donor  have  not  always  been  re- 
garded with  punctilious  exactness;  but  the 
lapse  of  time  and  the  wants  of  other  genera- 
tions have  necessitated  a  change  in  the  mode 

Curious  Doles 

of  application  of  many  charities,  and  several 
old  customs  have  therefore  been  doomed  to 

Very  numerous  are  the  old  charities  for 
providing  beef,  bread,  coals,  strong  beer,  ale, 
and  even  tobacco,  snuff,  plums,  and  mince- 
pies.  At  Forebridge,  Staffordshire,  the  chil- 
dren in  ancient  times  complained  that  they 
had  no  plums  for  a  pudding  at  Christmas. 
So  the  chamberlain  of  the  corporation  of 
Stafford  was  enabled,  by  the  bounty  of  some 
kind  individual,  to  expend  an  annual  sum  at 
Christmas  for  purchasing  plums  to  be  dis- 
tributed among  the  inhabitants  of  certain  old 
houses  in  the  liberty  of  Forebridge.  The 
Rector  of  Piddle  Hinton,  Dorset,  according 
to  ancient  custom,  gives  away  on  old  Christ- 
mas Day  a  pound  of  bread,  a  pint  of  ale, 
and  a  mince-pie  to  every  poor  person  in  the 
parish.  Nor  is  the  feast  of  Lent  forgotten. 
John  Thake,  in  1537,  left  his  property  with 
the  condition  that  a  barrel  of  white  herrings 
and  a  cade  of  red  herrings  be  given  to  the 
poor  of  Clavering,  Essex ;  and  a  similar  be- 
quest was  made  by  Richard  Stevenson,  of 
Dronfield,  Derbyshire,  Lord  Rich  of  Felsted, 
Essex,  and  David  Salter  of  Farnham  Royal, 
Bucks,  who  also  ordered  that  two  shillings 
be  laid  out  for  the  buying  of  a  pair  of  kid 
gloves  for  the  parson  on  the  first  Sunday  in 
Lent.  Bread  and  cheese  was  provided  for 

Old  English  Customs 

every  person  who  slept  in  the  parish  of  West- 
bere,  Kent,  three  nights  previous  to  the  first 
Saturday  after  old  Midsummer  Day ;  and  at 
Paddington  bread  and  cheese  were  thrown 
down  and  scrambled  for  by  the  people  assem- 
bled in  the  churchyard.  At  Witney,  Oxon, 
after  the  morning  service  on  Sundays,  a 
loaf  of  bread  is  given  to  the  poor,  and  at 
Easter  each  person  is  presented  with  a 

Figs  and  ale  were  provided  for  the  poor 
scholars  of  the  Free  School  in  Giggleswick 
on  St.  Gregory's  Day  by  the  will  of  William 
Clapham  in  1603,  and  at  Harlington,  Mid- 
dlesex, the  ringers  received  a  leg  of  pork  for 
ringing  on  November  5th.  White  peas,  rye, 
oatmeal,  malt,  barley,  appear  in  other  bequests. 
A  small  piece  of  land,  called  Petticoat  Hole, 
at  Stockton,  Yorks,  is  held  subject  to  an 
ancient  custom  of  providing  a  petticoat  for 
a  poor  woman  of  Stockton.  In  the  same 
county  there  is  an  ancient  payment  of  33.  4d. 
as  the  value  of  a  pound  of  pepper,  due  from 
the  occupier  of  a  farm  at  Yaptam  for  taking 
care  of  the  parson's  horse,  which  he  is  bound 
to  do  whenever  the  parson  goes  there  to 
do  duty. 

The  Weavers'  Company,  London,  pay  ten 
shillings  a  year  to  the  churchwardens  of 
St.  Clements,  Eastcheap,  to  provide  two 
turkeys  for  the  parishioners,  to  be  eaten 


Curious  Doles 

at  their  annual  feast,  called  "  the  reconcil- 
ing or  love  feast,"  formerly  held  on  Maundy 

To  establish  bull-baiting  seems  a  curious 
form  of  charity ;  but  George  Staverton  in 
1 66 1  gave  the  sum  of  £6  yearly  to  buy  a 
bull  to  be  baited  at  Wokingham,  enjoining 
that  the  flesh,  hide,  and  offal  was  to  be  sold 
and  bestowed  upon  poor  children  in  stockings 
of  the  Welsh  and  shoes.  The  bull  was  baited 
until  1823,  and  since  that  period  has  been 
put  to  death  in  a  more  merciful  manner,  and 
the  meat  given  to  the  poor. 

Charities  for  the  benefit  of  poor  distressed 
soldiers  and  seamen  abound,  notably  the 
famous  one  connected  with  Bamborough 
Castle.  There  is  a  special  bequest,  under 
the  control  of  the  minister  of  St.  Mary's, 
Dover,  for  the  widows  of  drowned  men. 

The  streets  of  London  in  the  days  of  can- 
dles and  oil-lamps  were  dark  and  dangerous. 
One  John  Wardall  bequeathed  to  the  Grocers1 
Company  a  sum  for  the  maintenance  of  a 
good  and  sufficient  iron  and  glass  lantern  for 
the  direction  of  passengers  to  go  with  more 
security  to  and  from  the  waterside  all  night 
long,  to  be  fixed  at  the  north-east  corner  of 
St.  Botolph's  Church.  John  Cooke  in  1662 
did  a  like  service  for  the  corner  of  St. 
Michael's  Lane,  near  Thames  Street,  and 
also  for  the  cleaning  and  sweeping  the  aisle 

Old  English  Customs 

of  St.  Michael's  Church,  Crooked  Lane, 
London,  called  Fishmongers'  Aisle.  We 
have  already  noticed  several  bequests  for 
bell-ringing  at  night  for  the  guidance  and 
direction  of  travellers. 

The  washing  of  Molly  Grime  is  a  curious 
bequest.  Seven  old  maids  of  Glentham, 
Lincolnshire,  received  for  many  years  until 
1832  a  small  sum  for  washing  a  tomb  in 
the  parish  church,  called  Molly  Grime,  with 
water  brought  from  Newell  Well. 

Sometimes  donors  have  striven  to  im- 
mortalise their  names  by  showing  a  whimsi- 
cal predilection  for  colours.  Thus  Henry 
Greene  in  1679  bequeathed  money  to  pro- 
vide four  green  waistcoats  for  four  poor 
old  women,  lined  with  green  galloon 
lace ;  and  Thomas  Gray  left  money  for 
grey  waistcoats  and  coats  of  the  same 

Leonard  Dare  in  1 6 1 1  ordered  the  wardens 
of  South  Pool,  Devonshire,  to  lay  on  his 
tombstone  four  times  a  year  threescore 
penny  loaves  of  good  and  wholesome  bread 
for  the  poor  of  the  parish.  There  is  a 
notable  charity  in  the  custody  of  the  Vicar 
of  St.  Sepulchre's  Church,  London,  for  the 
purpose  of  causing  a  bell  to  be  tolled  pre- 
vious to  every  execution  at  Newgate,  and 
certain  words  of  exhortation  delivered  to 
the  condemned  prisoners.  The  prescribed 

Curious  Bequests 

words  are  curious,  and  commence  with  the 

"  You  prisoners  that  are  within, 
Who  for  wickedness  and  sin,"  &c. 

The  redeeming  of  English  Christian  slaves 
from  captivity  is  not  now  a  very  useful  object 
for  the  bequests  of  the  charitable.  In  1655 
Alicia,  Duchess  Dudley,  left  money  for  this 
purpose,  and  there  is  also  the  famous  Belton's 
charity  for  the  redemption  of  British  slaves 
in  Turkey  and  Barbary.  These  charities  have 
now  been  diverted  to  other  uses. 

Very  numerous  are  the  bequests  for  the 
encouragement  of  maid-servants,  and  a  not 
infrequent  method  of  bestowing  the  charity 
is  as  follows : — Two  or  three  candidates  are 
selected  and  these  have  to  throw  dice  or 
cast  lots  for  the  amount  specified  in  the 
bequest.  This  was  the  method  adopted  at 
Guildford  according  to  the  will  of  John 
How,  made  in  1674,  and  at  Reading,  where 
John  Kendrick,  John  Blagrave,  and  others 
left  money  for  the  benefit  of  maid-servants. 
The  throwing  of  dice  has,  however,  now 
been  discontinued. 

One  widow  of  Westbury,  Wilts,  named 
Elizabeth  Townsend,  was  so  impressed  with 
the  merits  of  an  anthem  composed  by  her 
late  husband's  grandfather,  that  she  left  a 
bequest  to  the  vicar  and  choir  singers  for 

Old  English   Customs 

the  singing  of  it  every  year  on  the  Sunday 
preceding  the  24th  day  of  June. 

The  annual  "  Lion  Sermon  "  at  St.  Katha- 
rine Cree  Church,  Leadenhall  Street,  founded 
by  Sir  John  Gayer,  Lord  Mayor  of  London 
some  two  and  a-half  centuries  ago,  is  preached 
every  year  in  commemoration  of  an  episode 
in  Sir  John's  life.  Sir  John  Gayer  was  a 
merchant  venturer,  and  accompanied  an  ex- 
pedition to  the  East,  when,  getting  separated 
from  the  caravan  at  night,  he  found  himself 
confronted  by  lions,  prayed  the  prayer  of 
Daniel  for  deliverance,  and  his  life  was  saved. 
That  night  was  the  i6th  of  October — the 
date  commemorated  by  this  annual  sermon. 
Another  notable  episode  in  the  life  of  Sir 
John  Gayer  as  Lord  Mayor  was  his  com- 
mittal to  the  Tower,  with  four  Aldermen, 
for  refusing  to  comply  with  the  demand 
which  Parliament,  in  1647,  when  it  no  longer 
represented  the  nation,  made  upon  the  Cor- 
poration of  London  for  a  subsidy  for  the 
troops.  That  incarceration  probably  hastened 
Sir  John's  death.  He  died  in  the  good  old 
faith  in  which  he  had  lived,  and  left  money 
for  the  maintenance  of  the  "  Lion  Sermon," 
which  records  his  memory  and  his  wonderful 

The  old  custom  of  the  "  Pax  Cake  "  is 
still  kept  up  in  the  united  parishes  of  Sellack 
and  King's  Capel,  Herefordshire.  On  Palm 

cc  Pax  Cake"   Custom 

Sunday  plain  cakes  are  distributed  in  church, 
the  intention  being  that  those  who  have 
quarrelled  should  break  the  cake  together, 
and  say  "  Peace  and  good  will,"  thus  making 
up  their  differences  in  preparation  for  the 
Easter  Communion.  At  some  period  glasses 
of  beer  were  introduced,  and  the  present  vicar 
remembers  seeing  the  beer  handed  round  in 
the  church ;  but  this  part  of  the  ceremony 
has  long  been  discontinued,  and  was  not 
originally  part  of  the  custom.  The  cost  of 
the  cakes  is  defrayed  by  a  rent-charge  on  a 
farm  in  the  parish.  In  the  same  church 
another  custom  prevails  which  may  be  here 
noted.  At  the  celebration  of  Holy  Com- 
munion the  altar  rails  are  always  covered  with 
white  linen.  This  is  probably  the  pre-Refor- 
mation  "  Houseling  Cloth,"  which  has  never 
been  discontinued  in  this  church.  At  Foy 
Church,  in  the  same  county,  a  similar  custom 

Charities  have  been  founded  and  still  exist 
for  the  preaching  of  sermons  on  the  defeat 
of  the  Spanish  Armada,  the  discovery  of  the 
Gunpowder  Plot,  to  commemorate  the  pre- 
servation of  the  donors  in  the  Great  Fire  of 
London,  the  victory  of  Nelson  at  the  battle 
of  Trafalgar,  the  victories  of  Wellington, 
the  commemoration  of  the  ascension  of 
George  IV.,  and  other  national  events.  And 
we  have  bequests  for  the  encouragement  of 

Old  English   Customs 

matrimony  and  horse-racing,  providing  por- 
tions for  poor  maids,  catechising  children, 
buying  Bibles,  for  repeating  the  Lord's 
Prayer,  Apostles'  Creed,  and  Ten  Command- 
ments, strewing  the  church  with  rushes,  to 
awaken  sleepers,  and  whip  dogs  out  of  church, 
to  dress  graves  with  flowers,  to  plant  rose- 
trees  in  churchyards,  to  promote  peace  and 
goodwill  among  neighbours,  and  to  en- 
courage many  other  desirable  and  excellent 
objects.  If  all  these  bequests  founded  by 
pious  benefactors  had  been  successful  in  secur- 
ing the  attainment  of  the  object  for  which 
their  charity  was  bestowed,  our  nation  would 
have  long  since  become  a  happy,  prosperous, 
and  contented  people. 

One  of  the  strangest  of  strange  bequests 
is  that  of  John  Knill,  who  died  in  1 8 1 1 ,  and 
had  a  building  called  Knill's  Mausoleum 
erected  near  St.  Ives.  He  left  sundry  be- 
quests of  a  useful  nature,  but  ordered  that 
every  five  years  five  pounds  should  be  divided 
among  the  girls,  not  exceeding  ten  years  of  age, 
who  should  between  ten  and  twelve  o'clock 
in  the  forenoon  of  St.  James's  Day  dance  for 
a  quarter  of  an  hour  at  least  on  the  ground 
near  the  Mausoleum,  and  after  the  dance 
sing  Psalm  C.  of  the  old  version  to  "  the 
fine  old  tune  "  to  which  the  same  was  then 
sung  in  St.  Ives  Church.  He  provided  also 
white  ribbons  for  breast-knots  for  the  girls, 

Pilgrim  s  Dole 

a  cockade  for  the  fiddler,  and  divers  other 
matters,  which  reveal  painfully  the  vanity 
that  lurks  in  human  nature.  Mr.  Knill's 
will  is  a  long  one,  and  need  not  be  further 

We  must  not  omit  to  record  the  old- 
fashioned  pilgrim's  dole  of  bread  and  ale 
which  is  offered  to  all  wayfarers  at  the 
Hospital  of  St.  Cross  at  Winchester.  Tra- 
vellers who  partake  of  this  refreshment  at 
the  gate  of  this  fine  old  almshouse  may  re- 
flect that  they  are  thus  enjoying  the  bounty 
of  William  of  Wykeham.  Emerson  once 
made  a  pilgrimage  to  the  hospital,  claimed 
and  received  the  victuals,  and  triumphantly 
quoted  the  incident  as  proof  of  the  majestic 
stability  of  English  institutions. 



Army  customs — Keys  at  the  Tower — 12 th  Lancers 
and  hymn-tunes  —  Scotch  traditions  of  the  1st 
Regiment  of  Foot — Royal  Welsh  Fusiliers  and 
St.  David's  Day — Inkerman  Day — Royal  Berks 
— Scots'  Greys — 7th  Hussars— 8th  Hussars — 
Regimental  nicknames — 14th  Hussars — Cold- 
stream  Guards — The  Buffs — Northumberland 
Fusiliers — Suffolk  Regiment — Lancastrian  Fusi- 
liers— Relics  of  American  War — Royal  Canadians 
— Cheshire  Regiment — 7th  Fusiliers — Duke  of 
Cornwall's  Light  Infantry — Black  Watch. 

1HE  army  is  so  conservative  an  institu- 
tion that  old  established  customs  live  long 
therein.  The  esprit  de  corps  which  a  soldier 
feels  for  his  regiment  makes  him  eager  to 
retain  the  special  observances  which  have 
been  handed  down  from  past  ages,  and  which 
serve  to  commemorate  some  brilliant  feat 
of  arms  or  honourable  association  connected 
with  the  regimental  history.  A  few  of  these 
customs  are  here  recorded. 

Every  night  at  the  Tower  of  London  the 

warder  locks  the  doors  and  gates,  and  then 

approaches   the   guard -house.     The   guard 

with  his  assistants  turns  out  at  the  approach 


Army   Customs 

of    the   party,    and    the    following   curious 
dialogue  takes  place  : — 

Sentry  (challenging) — "  Halt !  who  goes 
there  ? " 

Warder  (halting)—"  The  keys." 
Sentry—"  Whose  keys  ? " 
Warder — "  Queen  Victoria's  keys." 
Sentry — "  Pass,  Queen  Victoria's  keys." 
The  warder  and  party  advance;   then  he 
halts    and    cries   aloud,   "God    save   Queen 
Victoria."     The   guard    present    arms,    and 
officers  and  men  say  in  chorus  three  times — 
"  Amen,  amen,  amen."       This  is  a  very  curi- 
ous  relic  of  the  manners   and  customs  of 
ancient  times. 

It  is  difficult  to  account  for  a  custom 
which  prevails  in  the  I2th  Lancers,  in  which 
regiment,  at  ten  o'clock  each  night  outside 
the  officers'  quarters,  the  band  plays  one 
or  two  hymn-tunes.  A  similar  custom  was 
introduced  in  the  loth  Hussars  in  1866  by 
the  late  Colonel  Valentine  Baker ;  and  as 
he  exchanged  from  the  I2th  Lancers  to  that 
regiment,  he  probably  copied  the  idea  from 
them.  In  the  loth  Hussars  to  this  day  the 
band  plays  two  hymns  every  evening  between 
the  first  and  second  post  of  watch-setting, 
followed  by  "  God  Save  the  Queen."  A 
bequest  was  left  for  this  purpose,  and  it 
is  an  example  of  the  close  observance  of 

1  "  London  Letters,"  by  George  W.  Smalley. 


Old  English   Customs 

tradition  existing  in  the  British  army. 
Other  examples  are  not  wanting  to  enforce 
the  same  truth.  After  mess,  or  at  the  close 
of  any  function,  the  band  of  the  Norfolk 
Regiment  is  accustomed  to  play  the  familiar 
strains  of  "  Rule  Britannia "  before  the 
National  Anthem.  The  figure  of  Britannia 
is  the  distinguishing  badge  of  the  regiment, 
and  was  bestowed  upon  it  by  Queen  Anne 
for  its  distinguished  conduct  at  the  battle 
of  Almanza,  during  the  war  of  the  Spanish 
succession.  The  regiment  thus  upheld  the 
honour  of  Great  Britain,  and  was  rewarded 
for  it  by  Queen  Anne  allowing  them  to  wear 
the  figure  of  Britannia  on  their  breastplates. 
The  Royal  Berks  Regiment  also  have  the 
same  custom.  The  Wiltshire  Regiment 
greatly  distinguished  itself  at  the  defence  of 
Carrickfergus  Castle  in  1760  when  the  French 
invaded  Ireland.  Their  bullets  being  all  ex- 
pended, the  men  used  bricks,  stones,  and 
even  their  coat  buttons  in  lieu  thereof,  and 
for  this  reason  are  allowed  to  have  a  "  splash 
on  the  buttons." 

A  body  of  Scottish  infantry  proceeded 
from  Scotland  to  France  in  the  reign  of 
James  VI.  to  assist  Henry  IV.  in  his  wars 
with  the  Leaguers,  and  was  constituted  in 
January  1633  a  regiment,  afterwards  the  ist 
on  Royal  Regiment  of  Foot,  now  known  as 
the  Royal  Scots  (Lothian  Regiment).  Many 

Army   Customs 

Scottish  traditions  are  kept  up  in  the  regi- 
ment, and  amongst  them  the  custom  of 
"  first-footing."  A  correspondent  in  Folk- 
Lore^  writes  that  at  midnight  on  New 
Year's  Eve  he  was  startled  by  the  uproar 
in  the  neighbouring  barracks,  the  shouts 
and  the  beating  of  drums,  while  the  band 
played  a  lively  tune  as  it  marched  up  and 
down  the  barrack  square.  The  daughters 
of  the  old  sergeant  with  whom  the  writer 
lodged  brought  in  cakes  and  wine  and 
claimed  to  be  "  first-foot,"  and  thus  the 
Royals  had  preserved  the  old  custom  which 
flourished  so  much  in  Scotland  for  more 
than  two  centuries  and  a  half. 

The  Royal  Welsh  Fusiliers,  formerly  the 
2 jrd,  and  the  Welsh  Regiment  (formerly 
the  4  ist),  patriotically  observe  St.  David's 
Day,  and  the  wearing  of  the  leek  is  an 
important  part  of  the  ceremonial.  The 
origin  of  this  peculiar  Welsh  custom  is  un- 
certain. Some  say  that  the  practice  arose 
in  consequence  of  a  victory  obtained  by 
them  under  Caedwalla  over  the  Saxons  on 
St.  David's  Day,  A.D.  640,  when  the  Welsh 
adopted  the  leek  as  a  distinguishing  badge. 
Shakespeare  alludes  to  the  custom  in  his 
play  of  Henry  V.,  act  iv.  scene  7,  when 
Fluellen  thus  addresses  the  king  : — 

1  The  writer  speaks  of  the  custom  as  a  recollection,  but  we 
doubt  not  that  it  is  still  maintained  by  the  Royals. 

289  T 

Old  English   Customs 

"  Your  grandfather  of  famous  memory,  an't  please 
your  Majesty,  and  your  great  uncle  Edward  the 
plack  prince  of  Wales,  as  I  have  read  in  the 
chronicles,  fought  a  most  prave  pattle  here  in  France. 

"  K.  Henry.  They  did,  Fluellen. 

"  Flu.  Your  Majesty  says  very  true.  If  your 
Majesty  is  remembered  of  it,  the  Welshmen  did 
goot  service  in  a  garden  where  leeks  did  grow, 
wearing  leeks  in  their  Monmouth  caps ;  which,  your 
Majesty  knows,  to  this  hour  is  an  honourable  padge 
of  the  service ;  and  I  do  believe  your  Majesty  takes 
no  scorn  to  wear  the  leek  on  Saint  Tavy's  Day." 

This  is  at  least  conclusive  that  the  wearing 
of  the  leek  by  Welshmen  on  St.  David's  Day 
was  practised  in  Shakespeare's  time,  and  this 
custom  is  still  preserved  by  the  Welsh  Regi- 
ment and  the  Welsh  Fusiliers.  All  the  men 
in  the  regiment  wear  a  leek  in  their  busby, 
and  their  goat,  an  important  member,  is 
decked  with  rosettes  and  red  and  blue 
ribbons.  At  the  officers'  mess  the  drum- 
major,  accompanied  by  the  goat,  marches 
round  the  table  after  dinner,  carrying  a 
plate  of  leeks.  Every  officer,  or  guest, 
who  has  never  eaten  one  before,  is  obliged 
to  do  so,  standing  on  his  chair  with  one  foot 
on  the  table,  while  the  drummer  beats  a  roll 
behind  his  chair.  He  is  then  considered  a 
true  Welshman.  All  the  toasts  are  coupled 
with  the  name  of  St.  David,  and  the  memory 
of  a  certain  Toby  Pur  cell,  major  of  the  regi- 

Army  Customs 

ment,  who  was  killed  in  the  Battle  of  the 
Boyne,  is  duly  honoured.  This  regiment  is 
remarkable  in  having  what  is  called  the 
flash  on  the  back  of  the  neck  of  the  coats 
of  the  officers  and  staff  sergeants.  Every 
regiment  wore  pig-tails  till  about  the  year 
1807,  and  the  supposition  is  that  the  Royal 
Welsh  Fusiliers,  having  retained  them  after 
other  regiments  had  officially  discarded  them, 
were  eventually  allowed  to  retain  the  flash 
on  the  coat-collars  as  a  distinction. 

Inkerman  Day  is  observed  on  November 
5th,  and  crowds  assemble  at  St.  James's  Palace 
to  witness  the  relieving  of  the  guard.  On 
the  last  anniversary  of  this  famous  victory 
the  3rd  Grenadiers  were  relieved  by  the  ist 
Coldstream,  the  Queen's  colours  of  both 
battalions,  borne  by  lieutenants,  being  deco- 
rated with  bunches  of  laurel  in  memory  of 
their  deceased  comrades. 

The  Royal  Berks  Regiment  wear  a  black 
band  on  their  arm  on  the  2yth  day  of  July, 
in  remembrance  of  the  slaughter  of  their 
comrades  of  the  second  battalion  at  the 
fatal  Battle  of  Maiwand  in  the  Afghan  War. 
There  the  gallant  soldiers  of  brave  Berkshire 
were  mowed  down  by  their  fierce  foe,  but 
the  regiment  nobly  maintained  their  ground. 
The  monument  in  the  Forbury  Gardens  at 
Reading  was  erected  in  memory  of  the  death 
of  so  many  heroes. 


Old  English  Customs 

The  2nd  Dragoons,  or  Royal  Scots  Greys, 
wear  grenadier  caps  or  bearskins  instead 
of  helmets.  This  custom  is  by  some  be- 
lieved to  have  originated  at  the  Battle  of 
Ramilies  in  1706,  but  it  is  far  more  probable 
that  the  regiment  wore  grenadier  caps  from 
the  time  it  was  raised. 

The  yth  (Queen's  Own)  Hussars  was  origi- 
nally a  Scotch  regiment.  Although  it  has 
long  since  severed  its  connection  with  Bonnie 
Scotland,  the  memory  of  its  original  home  is 
kept  up  by  the  custom  of  its  band  playing 
"The  Garb  of  Old  Gaul"  when  marching 
past,  and  "  Hieland  Laddie  "  when  trotting. 

The  8th  (King's  Royal  Irish)  Hussars  pre- 
serve the  memory  of  the  brave  deeds  of  the 
regiment  by  a  peculiar  mode  of  wearing  the 
sword-belt.  The  soldiers  were  permitted  to 
wear  the  sword-belt  over  the  right  shoulder, 
instead  of  round  the  waist,  as  is  usual  in  dra- 
goon regiments,  on  account  of  the  gallant 
conduct  of  their  regiment  at  the  battle  of 
Saragossa  when  they  captured  the  belts  of  the 
Spanish  cavalry.  The  8th  Hussars  were  nick- 
named "  Cross-belts  "  in  consequence  of  this 
peculiar  privilege.  The  nicknames  of  the 
different  regiments  are  full  of  interest,  and 
often  recall  the  memory  of  some  gallant  feat  of 
arms  performed  in  ancient  days,  though  some 
of  the  titles  are  not  always  complimentary. 
For  example,  the  i  ith  Hussars,  called  Prince 

Army   Customs 

Albert's  Own,  because  they  formed  the  escort 
of  the  Prince  on  his  arrival  in  England,  were 
usually  called  "The  Cherry  Pickers,"  from 
their  wearing  cherry-coloured  overalls  unlike 
any  other  cavalry  regiment. 

The  anniversary  of  the  battle  of  Ramnug- 
gur,  fought  in  1848,  when  the  regiment  of 
the  1 4th  (King's)  Hussars  defeated  an  enor- 
mously superior  force  of  the  Sikh  army,  is 
still  observed  as  a  great  night,  and  the 
regiment  is  still  known  as  "  The  Ramnuggur 

The  scarlet  plume  in  the  busby  of  the  1 5th 
(King's)  Hussars  is  assumed  in  memory  of  the 
battle  of  Villiers-en-Couche,  fought  in  1794, 
when  the  regiment  charged  together  with  the 
Austrian  Hussars,  and  defeated  a  very  large 
company  of  the  enemy.  After  a  review  in 
1799,  the  king  granted  the  troopers  the 
honour  of  decking  their  helmets  with  scar- 
let feathers.  They  well  earned  the  title  of 
"The  Fighting  Fifteenth." 

The  Coldstream  Guards  preserve  by  their 
name  the  memory  of  the  famous  march  of 
General  Monck  from  Coldstream  in  January 
1 6 60,  to  restore  King  Charles  II.  to  the  throne 
of  England. 

The  Buffs  enjoy  the  time-honoured  privi- 
lege of  marching  through  the  City  of  Lon- 
don with  drums  beating  and  colours  flying. 
The  origin  of  the  custom  is  curious.  It 


Old  English   Customs 

appears  that  it  was  first  called  the  Holland 
Regiment,  and  was  raised  in  the  time  of  Queen 
Elizabeth  to  aid  the  Dutch  in  their  war  with 
Spain.  The  regiment  was  formed  in  1572  by 
the  London  Guilds,  who  mustered  3000  men, 
and  it  was  the  peculiar  privilege  of  the  trained 
bands  of  the  city  to  march  through  London 
streets  in  the  manner  already  described. 

The  Northumberland  Fusiliers  are  accus- 
tomed to  wear  red  and  white  roses  in  their 
caps  on  St.  George's  Day.  The  origin  of 
this  custom  is  doubtless  connected  with  the 
arms  of  the  regiment,  St.  George  and  the 
Dragon,  and  the  roses  emblazoned  on  their 
banner.  The  Fusilier  caps  were  given  them 
for  their  bravery  in  defeating  the  French  at 
Wilhelmstahl  in  1762,  and  a  white  plume 
was  added  for  their  gallantry  at  St.  Lucia  in 
1778.  The  men  plucked  the  white  feathers 
from  the  hats  of  the  dead  Frenchmen  and 
put  them  in  their  own  headgear. 

The  Suffolk  Regiment  wear  roses  in  their 
caps  on  August  1st,  in  commemoration  of 
the  battle  of  Minden,  fought  in  1759.  The 
Lancashire  Fusiliers  have  a  similar  custom, 
which  arose  from  the  fact  that  the  regiment 
was  posted  near  some  gardens,  from  which  the 
men  took  roses  to  adorn  their  hats  during 
the  battle. 

The  East  Yorkshire  and  Loyal  North 
Lancashire  Regiments  fought  in  the  Ameri- 

Army   Customs 

can  War,  and  in  memory  of  General  Wolfe's 
death  wear  a  black  worm  in  their  lace. 

The  ist  Battalion,  Prince  of  Wales'  Lein- 
ster  Regiment  (Royal  Canadians),  was  raised 
in  Canada  from  the  colonial  population  under 
extraordinary  circumstances  in  185 8,  and  was 
designated  the  looth,  or  Prince  of  Wales's 
Royal  Canadian  Regiment.  Whilst  in  that 
country  it  took  part  in  the  celebration  of  the 
Confederation  of  Canada,  known  as  "  Domi- 
nion Day,"  July  ist,  1867,  and  ever  since 
the  anniversary  is  regularly  observed  by  all 
ranks  of  the  regiment  wearing  Canadian 
maple  leaves  in  their  headgear;  the  regi- 
mental colours  as  well  as  the  officers'  mess 
table  being  also  decorated.  These  leaves  are 
specially  selected  and  sent  from  Canada  to 
the  regiment  wherever  it  may  be  serving. 
Special  athletic  sports  and  a  ball  are  held. 
When  practicable  the  colours  are  trooped. 
The  regiment,  which  has  for  its  badge  the 
maple  leaf,  is  the  only  regiment  in  the  army 
having  a  colonial  title.1  Its  nicknames  are 
curious,  and  are  as  follows  : — "  The  Crusa- 
ders," so  called  by  the  Canadians  from  the 
fact  of  its  having  been  raised  to  assist  in 
the  suppression  of  the  Mutiny  in  the  East 
Indies ;  "  The  Wild  Indians,"  owing  to  the 

1  I  am  indebted  to  Captain  Dickinson  for  this  information ; 
he  tells  me  that  the  custom  has  never  been  recorded  before  in 
any  other  work. 


Old  English  Customs 

idea  that  it  was  recruited  from  the  back- 
woodsmen of  North  America  ;  "  The  Beav- 
ers," from  its  original  badge ;  "  The  Old 
Hundredth,"  on  account  of  its  rank  and  file 
being  much  older  men  than  in  other  regi- 
ments, at  the  time  it  was  first  raised ;  and 
from  its  being  the  "  looth  Foot"  it  was 
named  "  The  Centipedes,"  which  title  is  said 
to  be  the  invention  of  some  witty  Spaniards 
when  the  regiment  was  stationed  at  Gibraltar. 
These  distinctive  names  are  preserved  by  the 
regiment  with  much  veneration  and  pride. 

The  2nd  Battalion  of  this  regiment  was 
originally  the  3rd  Bombay  European  In- 
fantry of  the  East  India  Company's  Forces, 
and  then  the  iO9th  (Bombay  Infantry)  Regi- 
ment. It  observes  with  much  ceremony 
April  3rd,  known  as  "Jhansi  Day,"  in  re- 
membrance of  the  storm  and  siege  of  Jhansi 
(Central  India)  in  1858,  when  the  regiment 
greatly  distinguished  itself.  A  ball  takes 
place,  and  the  colours  are  hung  and  deco- 
rated with  a  large  laurel  wreath.  This  regi- 
ment is  called  the  "  Steel "  or  "  Brass  Heads," 
on  account  of  the  splendid  manner  in  which 
they  stood  the  terrible  exposure  to  the  sun 
in  their  campaign  in  Central  India.  Its  con- 
nection with  the  old  East  India  Company 
is  preserved  by  the  painting  of  their  old 
colours  on  the  drums  of  the  battalion  in 
conjunction  with  the  "  Queen's  Colours." 

Army  Customs 

The  Cheshire  Regiment  wear  oak-leaves 
in  their  caps  on  parade.  The  origin  of  this 
custom  is  unknown.  The  opinion  of  some 
members  of  the  regiment  when  questioned 
upon  the  subject  is  worthy  of  record.  One 
speaker  stated  that  no  other  regiment  was 
allowed  to  wear  the  oak  leaf,  and  "  that  was 
good  enough  for  him."  Another  stated  that 
the  regiment  saved  the  life  of  King  Charles 
II.  at  the  battle  of  Dettingen,  and  stood 
around  the  tree  in  which  the  King  was  hid- 
den. A  little  historical  instruction  in  the 
army  might  not  be  altogether  wasted. 

The  line  battalions  and  the  Tyrone 
Militia  battalion  of  the  Royal  Inniskilling 
Fusiliers  continue  to  use  the  old  Irish  war 
pipes.  The-  Gloucestershire  Regiment  pos- 
sesses a  unique  distinction.  It  wears  the 
badge  of  the  sphinx  at  the  back  as  well  as 
on  the  front  of  their  caps,  in  memory  of  their 
bravery  when  engaged  to  the  front  and  rear 
at  once  at  the  Battle  of  Alexandria  in  1801. 

One  regiment,  the  yth  Fusiliers,  do  not 
drink  the  Queen's  health  at  mess.  The  story 
is  that  on  one  occasion  some  king  of  Eng- 
land was  dining  with  the  officers  of  the  regi- 
ment, and  said  after  dinner  that  the  loyalty 
of  the  7th  was  sufficiently  well  assured 
without  their  drinking  the  Sovereign's  health. 
They  are  extremely  proud  of  this  peculiar 


Old  English   Customs 

The  brass  feather  and  red  cloth  of  the 
helmet  of  the  Duke  of  Cornwall's  Light 
Infantry  tell  a  tale  of  the  American  War. 
They  defeated  a  strong  party  of  their  foes, 
who  vowed  vengeance  on  this  particular 
corps.  They  informed  the  Americans  that 
they  had  stained  their  feathers  red,  so  that 
they  could  be  distinguished  in  the  fight,  and 
that  others  might  not  suffer  on  this  account. 

The  Black  Watch  for  their  bravery  at  the 
battle  of  Guildermalsen,  Holland,  in  1794, 
won  the  "  red  heckle/'  which  is  still  worn  in 
the  men's  bonnets. 

There  are  doubtless  many  other  old  army 
customs  which  exist,  and  few  who  are  ac- 
quainted with  their  meaning  and  significance. 
The  new  Commander-in-Chief  of  the  British 
Army  strongly  advocates  the  cultivation  of 
esprit  de  corps  by  the  soldiers.  The  know- 
ledge of  the  meaning  of  these  old  customs, 
recalling  the  brave  deeds  of  the  regiments  in 
former  days,  would  tend  greatly  to  encourage 
the  feeling  which  Lord  Wolseley  so  wisely 
advocates,  and  inspire  the  men  to  emulate 
the  valour  of  their  sires. 



Curious  tenures — Modern  customs — Conclusion. 

I  HE  study  of  law-books  to  a  layman  is 
not  usually  exhilarating,  but  the  subject  of 
tenures  presents  some  features  of  interest, 
and  is  not  destitute  of  amusement.  So 
curious  are  some  of  these  tenures,  that  one 
can  but  "  smile  at  the  inoffensive  mirth  both 
of  our  kings  in  former  times,  and  lords  of 
manors  in  creating  them."  l  Most  of  them 
have  fallen  into  disuse,  or  have  since  been 
converted  into  rent.  Petit  Serjeanty  have 
been  abolished  by  Act  of  Parliament  as  long 
ago  as  the  reign  of  Charles  II. ;  but  several 
of  the  customs  pertaining  to  manors  have 
lingered  on  to  our  times,  and  the  honorary 
services  of  Grand  Serjeanty,  relating  to  per- 
sonal services  discharged  to  the  Sovereign, 
remain  in  full  force.  Most  of  these  have 
already  been  mentioned  in  a  preceding  chap- 
ter 2  in  connection  with  the  Coronation  of  the 
King,  and  we  will  briefly  refer  to  a  few  other 
tenures  of  land  and  customs  of  manors  which 

1  Blount's  Fragment  a  Antiquitatis. 

2  Cf.  "  Court  Customs,"  Chapter  xvi.  p.  256. 


Old  English   Customs 

are  remarkable,  though  they  have   for  the 
most  part  ceased  to  be  required. 

Blenheim  Palace,  near  Woodstock,  is  held 
by  the  Duke  of  Marlborough  by  the  tenure 
of  presenting  a  banner  yearly  at  Windsor 
Castle,  on  the  2nd  of  August,  in  memory  of 
the  battle  of  Blenheim,  fought  in  1704. 
The  honour  of  Woodstock  was  given  to  the 
Duke  by  Queen  Anne  for  the  victory  he 
gained  on  that  day.  The  Duke  of  Wellington 
holds  the  manor  of  Strathfieldsaye  by  a  like 
tenure,  and  is  required  to  present  a  banner  to 
the  Sovereign  yearly  in  memory  of  Waterloo. 

The  Isle  of  Man  was  granted  to  the  Stan- 
leys by  Henry  IV.,  who  required  them  to 
render  to  the  Sovereign  two  falcons  on  the 
day  of  his  coronation.  The  Barons  Furnival 
of  Farnham-Royal,  Bucks,  had  to  provide  a 
glove  for  the  right  hand  of  the  king  on 
Coronation  Day,  and  to  support  his  right 
arm  while  he  held  the  sceptre.  To  serve 
the  king  with  a  towel  and  basons,  to  provide 
water  for  the  king's  hands,  to  make  one  mess 
in  an  earthen  pot  in  the  royal  kitchen,  to 
provide  five  wafers,  to  carve,  to  serve  the 
king  with  a  cup,  to  provide  two  white  cups, 
to  take  charge  of  the  napery,  to  be  chief 
larderer,to  keep  the  door  of  the  pantry, — these 
and  many  other  services  on  Coronation  Day 
are  attached  to  the  holding  of  various  manors 
and  baronies. 


Curious  Tenures 

Nor  were  these  Grand  Sergeanties  restricted 
only  to  Coronation  Day.  Many  noble  lords 
held  manors  by  the  service  of  carving  for  the 
king  at  annual  feasts,  or  serving  him,  or 
bearing  a  rod  before  him,  or  guarding  his 
person  (as  at  Shrewsbury  when  he  lay  there), 
or  holding  the  head  of  the  king  when  he 
should  cross  the  seas  and  was  troubled  with 
mat  de  mer.  The  lord  of  the  manor  of 
Hoton,  Cumberland,  was  obliged  to  hold 
the  stirrup  of  the  king  when  he  mounted 
his  horse  in  Carlisle  Castle,  and  the  lord  of 
Shirefield  had  the  unpleasant  duty  of  being 
master  of  the  king's  meritrices  or  laund- 
resses, as  well  as  dismembering  condemned 
malefactors,  and  measuring  the  gallons  in 
the  king's  household.  To  carry  a  hawk 
for  his  Majesty,  to  present  him  with  a  grey 
hood  or  cap,  or  a  white  ensign  whenever  he 
warred  in  Scotland,  to  attend  with  proper 
arms,  a  horse,  sword,  lance,  or  simple  bow 
and  arrows  whenever  his  services  were  re- 
quired, were  the  duties  incumbent  upon  other 
manor  lords.  The  service  of  cornage  or 
blowing  horns  was  very  common,  especially 
in  the  Border  counties,  where  Scottish  in- 
vasions were  frequent.  The  owner  of  King- 
ston Russell,  Dorset,  was  obliged  to  count 
the  king's  chessmen,  and  to  put  them  in  a 
bag  when  the  king  had  finished  the  game. 
The  Bacotes  or  Beckets  of  Shrivenham, 

Old  English   Customs 

Berks,  had  to  meet  the  king    whenever  he 
was  passing  through  the  town,  and  present 
two    white    capons,   making   the   speech  :— 
"  Ecce  domine  istos  duos  capones  quos  alias 
habebitis  sed  non  nunc" 

In  former  times  the  Sovereigns  used  to 
travel  frequently  through  the  country,  and 
hold  their  courts  at  divers  places,  to  keep 
Christmas  at  Reading,  or  Easter  at  Norwich  ; 
hence  in  order  to  provide  for  the  immense 
royal  household,  the  lords  of  the  neighbour- 
ing manors  were  required,  by  virtue  of  hold- 
ing their  estates,  to  furnish  various  kinds  of 
food  for  the  royal  table.  These  services 
come  under  the  head  of  Petit  Serjeanty. 
Grand  Serjeanty  is  a  personal  service  ;  but 
Petit  Serjeanty  does  not  require  a  tenant  to 
act  in  person,  but  only  to  render  and  pay 
yearly  to  the  king  certain  things,  as  a  man 
pays  a  rent.  Thus  the  holder  of  the  Barony 
of  Biewell,  Northumberland,  had  to  find 
thirty  soldiers  for  the  guard  of  Newcastle- 
upon-Tyne.  To  provide  a  footman  with 
bows  and  arrows  for  forty  days,  or  an  esquire 
with  an  haubergeon  and  a  lance  to  go  With  the 
king's  army  into  Wales,  was  incumbent  on  the 
owners  of  several  manors.  Felsted,  Essex, 
and  many  other  manors,  were  held  by  service 
of  keeping  two  palfreys  or  one  horse  for  the 
king's  use.  Arms  were  also  provided  in  the 
same  manner.  The  lord  of  Carleton  had  to 

Curious   "Tenures 

furnish  a  catapult ;  the  lord  of  Sholey  a  pole- 
axe  ;  the  lord  of  Pole  a  sword  of  the  value 
of  three  shillings  and  fourpence  ;  the  lord  of 
Drakelow  a  bow,  quiver,  and  twelve  arrows ; 
he  of  La  Barr  one  salmon  and  two  barbed 
arrows.  Lands  at  Chichester  had  to  furnish 
a  spindle-full  of  raw  thread  to  make  a  string 
for  the  king's  cross-bow ;  and  a  manor  in 
Dorset  provided  a  curry-comb.  The  variety 
of  these  services  is  indeed  remarkable. 
Clothes  and  provisions  for  the  king's  house- 
hold were  supplied  by  various  manors,  litter 
for  the  king's  bed,  rushes  for  the  floor  of 
his  chamber,  gloves  turned  up  with  hare's 
skin,  scarlet  hose,  beside  an  endless  supply 
of  fat  capons  and  wine  for  his  table.  Yar- 
mouth provided  a  hundred  herrings,  which 
were  baked  in  twenty-four  pies,  and  conveyed 
by  the  lord  of  the  manor  of  East  Carlton  to 
the  king. 

Hunting  was  ever  a  sport  loved  by  kings ; 
hence  we  find  many  manors  burdened  with 
the  duty  of  keeping  the  king's  forests,  hunt- 
ing wolves  and  foxes  and  cats,  driving  all 
vermin  from  the  royal  preserves,  and  pro- 
viding dogs  and  hawks.  Greyhounds  and 
harriers  seem  to  have  been  special  favourites, 
and  the  prevalence  of  hawking  is  abundantly 
exemplified  by  the  number  of  manors  held 
by  the  serjeanty  of  falconry.  Some  manors 
were  bound  to  render  certain  religious  ser- 

Old  English   Customs 

vice.  The  lord  of  Coningston  had  to  say 
daily  five  Pater-Nosters  and  five  Ave-Marias 
for  the  souls  of  the  king's  progenitors  ;  the 
lord  of  Greens-norton  held  his  lands  by  the 
service  of  lifting  up  his  right  hand  towards 
the  king  yearly  on  Christmas  Day  ;  the  lord 
of  Burcester,  by  providing  a  light  for  the 
altar  of  St.  Nicholas.  Even  the  king  some- 
times provided  for  the  supply  of  his  own 
offerings  at  the  altar,  for  we  find  that  when 
he  came  to  hear  mass  at  Maplescaump,  Kent, 
the  lord  of  the  manor  had  to  provide  him 
with  a  penny  for  an  oblation. 

Sea-coast  manors  and  towns  had  to  pro- 
vide ships  for  the  royal  service,  and  sailors 
to  man  them,  and  an  endless  variety  of  other 
services  existed,  such  as  providing  labourers 
for  castle-works,  paying  smoke-silver,  fur- 
nishing honey,  or  nails  for  the  king's  vships, 
or  tongs,  or  horse-shoes,  frightening  away 
wolves,  maintaining  bridges,  or  other  duties 
which  the  necessities  of  the  time,  or  the  in- 
genuity of  the  monarch  suggested. 

Nor  were  the  kings  the  only  personages 
entitled  to  such  services.  The  Counties 
Palatine  of  Durham,  Chester,  Ely,  and 
others,  had  royal  powers  in  their  own  terri- 
tory, and  the  Bishop  of  Durham  and  other 
Palatinate  rulers  were  entitled  to  the  same 
kind  of  services  from  various  manor-lords 
in  their  domains  which  were  rendered  to  the 

Curious   Tenures 

king  in  other  parts  of  the  country.  More- 
over, the  Bishops  of  Durham  were  no  Jess 
partial  to  the  chase  than  their  royal  masters, 
and  many  lords  had  to  provide  them  with 
hounds  and  hawks,  and  to  keep  their  forests 
in  the  same  manner  as  Windsor  or  New 
Forest  was  preserved  for  the  king. 

Dunmow  was  not  the  only  place  in  Eng- 
land where  fortunate  couples  were  rewarded 
with  a  flitch  of  bacon  after  passing  their  first 
year  of  married  life  amicably.  The  manor  of 
Whichnor,  Stafford,  was  held  by  Sir  Philip 
de  Somervile  by  the  service  of  providing  a 
flitch  of  bacon  and  a  quarter  of  wheat  for 
all  such  happy  couples.  The  oath  which 
the  husband  was  obliged  to  take  was  as 
follows : — 

"  Hear  ye,  Sir  Philip  de  Somervile,  lord 
of  Whichnor,  maintainer  and  giver  of  this 

bacon,   that   I  ,  since  I  wedded  , 

my  wife,  and  since  I  had  her  in  my  keeping 
and  at  my  will,  by  a  year  and  a  day  after  our 
marriage,  I  would  not  have  changed  for  none 
other,  fairer  or  fouler,  richer  or  poorer,  or 
for  none  other  descended  of  greater  lineage, 
sleeping  or  waking,  at  no  time.  And  if  she 
were  sole  and  I  sole,  I  would  take  her  to  be 
my  wife  before  all  women  of  the  world,  of 
what  conditions  soever  they  be,  good  or  evil, 
as  help  me  God  and  His  saints,  and  this  flesh 
and  all  fleshes." 

305  u 

Old  English   Customs 

At  Chingford,  Essex,  an  estate  was  held 
by  a  very  curious  tenure.  Whenever  it 
passed  into  new  hands  the  owner,  with  his 
wife,  man-servant,  and  maid-servant,  came 
on  horseback  to  the  parsonage  and  did  his 
homage  by  blowing  three  blasts  on  his  horn ; 
he  carried  a  hawk  on  his  fist,  his  servant  had 
a  greyhound  in  a  slip,  both  for  the  use  of  the 
rector  on  that  day.  He  received  a  chicken 
for  the  hawk,  a  peck  of  oats  for  his  horse, 
and  a  loaf  of  bread  for  his  greyhound.  After 
dinner  the  owner  blew  three  blasts  on  his 
horn,  and  then  with  his  party  left  the 

Some  other  tenures  were  secured  by  the 
presentation  of  one  clove,  horse-shoes,  a  horn, 
three  grains  of  pepper,  and  other  strange  and 
unusual  gifts.  Wyfold  Court  is  held  by  the 
tenure  of  presenting  a  red  rose  to  the  king 
whenever  he  should  pass  the  house  on  May 

The  Castor  Whip  tenure  is  remarkable, 
and  the  custom  has  only  recently  died  away, 
the  last  whip  used  being  in  the  possession  of 
Mr.  William  Andrews,  the  Hull  antiquary. 
On  Palm  Sunday  a  servant  from  the  Brough- 
ton  estate  attended  service  at  Castor  church 
with  a  new  cart-whip,  and  after  cracking  it 
three  times  in  the  porch  marched  with  it 
to  the  manorial  seat.  When  the  clergyman 
began  the  second  sermon  he  quitted  his  seat 

Modern   Customs 

with  his  gad-whip,  having  a  purse  containing 
thirty  pieces  of  silver  fixed  at  the  end  of  the 
leash,  and  kneeling  down  on  a  cushion  held 
the  purse  suspended  over  the  head  of  the 
clergyman  during  the  reading  of  the  sermon. 
Then  he  returned  to  his  seat,  and  left  the 
purse  and  whip  at  the  manor  house. 

Many  other  curious  services  and  remark- 
able tenures  might  be  mentioned ;  but  as 
most  of  them  have  now  become  obsolete 
they  can  scarcely  claim  a  record  in  a  book 
which  deals  mainly  with  existing  customs. 

Although  many  of  our  old  customs  have 
died  new  ones  have  sprung  into  being,  and 
may  be  regarded  as  fairly  established.  The 
observance  of  "  Primrose  Day,"  the  birth- 
day of  Lord  Beaconsfield,  has  now  become 
popular,  and  the  universal  wearing  of  the 
flower  on  April  2ist  by  the  members  of  the 
political  party  to  which  the  noble  earl  be- 
longed, seems  to  denote  that  the  custom  will 
not  soon  die,  but  that  it  has  "  come  to  stay" 
for  many  years  yet. 

The  origin  of  "  Primrose  Day  "  is  entirely 
due  to  the  energy  of  one  gentleman,  Sir 
George  Birwood,  of  the  India  Office.  In 
spite  of  much  discouragement  he  persevered 
in  his  endeavour  to  induce  people  to  mark 
the  birthday  of  Lord  Beaconsfield  by  the 
wearing  of  the  primrose.  Letters  were  written 
to  the  Times ;  advertisements  inserted  in  all 

Old  English   Customs 

the  leading  newspapers ;  the  florists'  aid 
solicited  ;  several  noblemen  set  the  example ; 
the  enthusiasm  spread  ;  until  at  length  success 
was  assured,  and  "  Primrose  Day "  became 
firmly  established  as  a  popular  commemora- 
tion of  the  distinguished  politician.  It  is 
seldom  that  a  custom  has  arisen  so  rapidly, 
or  that  the  energy  and  enthusiasm  of  one 
gentleman  have  been  responded  to  so  readily 
by  a  large  section  of  the  people. 

There  are  some  misguided  people  who  ad- 
vocate the  restoration  of  the  House  of  Stuart 
to  the  English  Throne,  and  with  much  cere- 
mony decorate  each  year  the  statues  of  the 
Stuart  monarchs,  and  drink  the  health  of 
"him  who  is  over  the  water,"  as  in  the 
"good  old  days"  of  the  old  and  young 
Pretenders.  The  last  anniversary  of  the 
martyrdom  of  the  White  King  was  celebrated 
with  much  ceremony  in  one  of  the  city 
churches,  and  splendid  white  wreaths  adorned 
the  statue  of  the  ill-fated  monarch. 

Possibly  many  other  modern  customs 
which  can  lay  no  claim  to  any  high  anti- 
quity could  be  added,  but  which  will  ere 
long  be  firmly  established  amongst  us  as 
popular  ceremonials. 

In  concluding  this  record  we  would  express 

a  hope  that  no  important  custom  has  been 

omitted.     The  collecting  of  those  which  we 

have  described  has  been  no  small  task,  though 



it  has  been  a  labour  lightened  by  much  in- 
terest, and  by  the  ready  help  of  those  who 
have  so  willingly  assisted  us.  We  would  ven- 
ture to  hope  that  those  who  are  in  a  position 
to  preserve  any  existing  custom  in  their  own 
neighbourhood  will  do  their  utmost  to  pre- 
vent its  decay.  Popular  customs  are  a  heri- 
tage which  has  been  bequeathed  to  us  from 
a  remote  past,  and  it  is  for  us  to  hand  down 
that  heritage  to  future  generations  of  English 
folk.  If  this  result  be  attained,  our  labours 
will  not  have  been  in  vain  in  endeavouring 
to  describe  the  quaint  manners  and  customs 
of  the  English  people  at  the  close  of  the 
nineteenth  century. 





Molly,  a  stalwart  man,  dressed  in  woman's  gown,  shawl,  and 
bonnet,  with  a  broom  in  hand.  A  ludicrous  imitation  is 
given  of  a  woman's  voice. 

King  George,  dressed  as  a  knight,  with  helmet  and  clothes 
covered  with  strips  of  coloured  paper,  and  a  sword,  &c. 

Beau  Slasher,  a  French  officer. 

Doctor,  arrayed  in  tail-coat,  knee-breeches,  &c. 

Jack  Vinny,  a  jester,  with  a  tall  fool's-cap. 

Happy  Jack,  dressed  in  tattered  garments. 

Old  Beelzebub,  with  a  long  white  beard,  as  Father  Christmas. 

MOLLY  enters^  flourishing  her  broom,  and  pretending  to 
sweep  with  it. 

A  room,  a  room,  I  do  presume, 

For  me  and  my  brave  men ; 

For  we  be  come  this  Christmas-time 

To  make  a  little  rhyme. 

And  'ere  we  come  at  Christmas  time, 

Welcome,  or  welcome  not, 
Hoping  old  Father  Christmas 

Will  never  be  forgot. 
Last  Christmas  Day  I  turned  the  spit, 
Burned  my  ringers,  and  of  it  yet. 


A  spark  flew  over  the  stable, 

The  skimmer  hit  the  ladle. 

Ah  !  says  the  gridiron,  can't  you  two  agree  ? 

I  be  the  justice,  bring  'em  afore  me. 

And  now  we  shows  activity  of  youth, 

Activity  of  age ; 
Such  action  you  never  see  upon 

Another  stage. 

And  if  ye  won't  believe  what  I  have  had  to  say, 
Walk  in,  King  George,  and  clear  the  way. 


King  George.  I  be  King  George,  a  noble  knight, 
I  lost  some  blood  in  English  fight ; 
I  care  not  for  Spaniard,  French,  nor  Turk, 
Where's  the  man  as  can  do  I  [  =  me]  hurt  ? 
And  if  before  me  he  dares  stand, 
I'll  cut  him  down  with  this  deadly  hand. 
I'll  cut  him  and  slash  him  as  small  as  flies, 
And  send  him  to  the  cookshop  to  make  mince  pies 
And  so  let  all  your  voices  sing 
As  I'm  the  royal  British  king. 


French  Officer.  I  be  a  bold  French  officer 
Beau  Slasher  is  my  name, 
And  by  my  sharp  sword  at  my  side, 
I  hope  to  win  the  game. 
My  body's  lined  with  lead, 
My  head  is  made  of  steel ; 
And  I  be  come  from  Turkish  land 
To  fight  thee  in  the  field. 


King  George.  Oh !  Slasher,  Slasher,  don't  thou  be 

too  hot, 

For  in  this  room  thee'lt  mind  who  thee  has  got ; 
So  to  battle,  to  battle,  let  thee  and  I  try 
To  see  which  on  the  ground  first  shall  lie. 

[  They  fight,  their  swords  dapping  together 
with  great  noise.     After  a  little  fighting 
the  French  Officer  hits  King  George  in 
the  leg,  which  causes  him  to  fall. 
Molly.  Doctor  !  Doctor !  make  no  delay, 
But  make  thee  haste  and  come  this  way. 
Doctor  !  Doctor  !  where  be'st  thee  ? 
King  George  is  wounded  in  the  knee — 
Ten  pounds  if  that  noble  Doctor  was  here. 

Enter  DOCTOR. 

Doctor.  I  be  the  noble  Doctor  Good, 
And  with  my  skill  I'll  stop  his  blood. 
My  fee's  ten  pounds,  but  only  five 
If  I  don't  raise  this  man  alive. 

[Feels  his  pulse  and  shakes  his  leg. 
This  man  be  not  quite  dead ;  see  how  his  leg  shakes, 
And  I've  got  pills  as  cures  all  ills, 
The  itch,  the  stitch,  the  palsy,  and  the  gout, 
Pain  within  and  pain  without, 
And  every  old  woman  dead  seven  year, 
If  she's  got  one  tooth  left  to  crack  one  of  these  here. 
[He  holds  up  a  box,  shakes  it  to  rattle  the 
pills,    opens   it,   takes  a  large  one  and 
stuffs  it  into  the  King's  mouth. 
Rise  up,  King  George,  and  fight  again, 
And  see  which  of  you  first  is  slain. 

[King  George  jumps  up  and  fights  with  the 
French  Officer  still  fiercer  than  before.   King 
George  hits  the  Officer,  who  falls  down  flat. 


Molly.  Doctor  !  Doctor !  do  thy  part ; 
This  man  is  wounded  to  the  heart. 
Doctor,  can  you  cure  this  man  ? 

Doctor.  No,  I  see  he's  too  far  gone. 

Molly.  Then  walk  in,  Jack  Vinny. 

Enter  JACK  VINNY. 

Jack  Vinny.  My  name  is  not  Jack  Vinny ; 
My  name  is  Mr.  John  Vinny — 
A  man  of  fame,  come  from  Spain, 
Do  more  than  any  man  again. 

Doctor.  Well,  what  can'st  thee  do,  Jack  ? 
Jack  Vinny.  Cure  a  magpie  with  the  toothache. 
Doctor.  How? 

Jack  Vinny.  Cut  his  head  off  and  throw  his  body 
into  the  ditch. 

Doctor.  Well,  cure  this  man. 

Jack  Vinny.  If  he'll  take  one  drop  out  of  my  drug 


Which  is  one  pennyworth  of  pigeon's  milk 
Mixed  with  the  blood  of  a  grasshopper, 
And  one  drop  of  the  blood  of  a  dying  donkey, 
Well  shaken  afore  taken, 
I'll  be  bound  he'll  rise  up  and  fight  no  more. 
Give  me  my  spectacles. 

[A  wooden  pair  of  spectacles  is  handed  to  him. 
Give  me  my  pliers. 

\A  large-sized  pair  of  pliers  is  handed  to 
him.  He  proceeds  to  draw  out  one  of 
the  Officer's  teeth,  and  exhibits  a  large 
horse's  tooth. 

Here's  a  tooth  enough  to  kill  any  man, 
But  I  will  cure  this  man. 



I  come  from  Spain  and  thee  from  France ; 
Give  us  thy  hand,  rise  up  and  dance. 

\French  Officer  rises.     The  two  dance  to- 
Molly.  Walk  in,  Happy  Jack. 

Enter  HAPPY  JACK. 

Happy  Jack.  I  be  poor  old  Happy  Jack, 
With  wife  and  family  at  my  back  ; 
Out  of  nine  I  have  but  five, 
And  half  of  them  be  starved  alive. 
Roast-beef,  plum-pudding,  and  mince-pie, 
Who  likes  them  here  better  than  I? 
The  roads  be  dirty,  my  shoes  be  bad, 
So  please  put  something  into  my  bag. 

Molly.  Come  in,  Father  Beelzebub, 
Who  on  thy  shoulder  carries  a  club, 
Under  thy  arm  a  dripping-pan, 
Ben't  he  now  a  jolly  old  man  ? 


Beelzebub.  Here  comes  I,  ain't  been  yet, 
With  my  great  head  and  little  wit  j 
My  head's  so  big,  and  my  wit's  so  small, 
So  I  brings  my  fiddle  to  please  ye  all. 

[  Commences  to  play  on  the  fiddle,  and  all 
dance  a  reel.  Molly  walks  round  and 
collects  money  from  spectators. 

END    OF    PLAY. 


In  the  neighbourhood  of  Reading,  at 
Compton,  and  other  places,  a  Turkish  Knight 
takes  the  place  of  the  French  Officer,  and 
announces  himself  in  the  following  lines  : — 

Here  comes  I,  a  Turkish  Knight, 
Come  from  Turkey-land  to  fight ; 
I  myself  and  seven  more, 
Fought  a  battle  of  eleven  score — 
Eleven  score  of  well-armed  men  \ 
We  never  got  conquered  it  by  them. 

King  George  replies  : — 

Whoa,  thou  little  fellow,  as  talks  so  bold ; 

'Bout  they  other  Turkish  chaps  I've  been  told. 

Draw  thy  sword,  most  parfile  knight, 

Draw  thy  sword  and  on  to  fight, 

For  I'll  have  satisfaction  before  I  goes  to-night. 

My  head  is  made  of  iron, 

My  body's  made  of  steel ; 

And  if  ye  won't  believe  me, 

Just  draw  thy  sword  and  feel.  \Theyfight. 

In  the  Steventon  mummers'  play  King 
George  calls  himself  the  "  Africky  King." 
Beau  Slasher,  the  French  officer,  fights  with 
him.  At  Bright-Walton,  Molly  is  known  as 
Queen  Mary,  possibly  a  corruption  of  the 
Blessed  Virgin.  The  play  in  this  village  is 
performed  in  most  approved  fashion,  as  the 
Rector  has  taken  the  matter  in  hand,  coached 
the  actors  in  their  parts,  and  taught  them 



some  elocution.  It  is  acted  in  the  school- 
room in  a  village  entertainment,  where  it 
affords  great  delight  to  the  rustics,  no  less 
than  to  the  performers  themselves. 

The  mumming  play  as  performed  at  Islip, 
Oxon,  in  December  last,  is  thus  reported  by 
an  eye-witness  and  faithful  recorder  of  old 
customs  : — 


Molly,  an  old  woman,  in  a  sun-bonnet,  carrying  a  broom. 

King  George,  carries  a  broadsword. 

Duke  of  Northumberland,  carries  a  broadsword. 

Doctor^  blue  coat  with  brass  buttons. 

Beelzebub,  black  face,  bludgeon  in  one  hand,  frying-pan  in  the 

Fat  Jack,  has  large  hump  on  his  back,  and  carries  thick  stick. 

Enter  MOLLY,  with  broom  in  hand. 

In  comes  I,  old  Molly,  sweeping  up. 

Merry,  merry  Christmas  and  happy  New  Year, 

Pocket  full  of  money  and  cellar  full  of  beer. 

I  had  six  children  last  night ;  I  bred  them  up  in  a 

I  had  a  slice  of  bread  and  lard  given  me  the  night 

before ; 
I  eat  all  that  myself.     Don't  you  think  I  am  a  jolly 

old  other  mother  to  them  all  ? 
(Shouts)  Come  in,  next  man. 

Enter  NORTHUMBERLAND,  brandishing  sword. 

In  come  I,  the  Royal  Duke  of  Northumberland, 
With  my  broadsword  in  my  hand. 


Where's    the    man    that    would    dare    to    bid    me 
stand  ? 

I  would  cut  him  as  small  as  flies, 

And   send   him  to   the   cookshop   to   make   mince- 

Mince-pies  hot,  mince-pies  cold  ; 

I'd  send  him  to  the  Old  Man  before  he's  nine  days 

Molly.  Come  in,  next  man. 

Enter  KING  GEORGE,  brandishing  sword. 

Where  is  that  man  that  dares  to  bid  me  stand  ? 
Although  he  swaggers  and  swears  he'd  cut  me  up  as 

small  as  flies, 

And  send  me  to  the  cookshop  to  make  mince-pies, 
Mince-pies  hot,  mince-pies  cold, 
And  send  me  to  the  Old  Man  before  I'm  nine  days 


Battle  to  battle  betwixt  you  and  I, 
See  which  is  on  the  ground  first,  you  or  I. 
Guard  your  blows  and  guard  your  nose, 
Or  down  on  the  ground  you  quickly  goes. 

[  They  fight^  and  Northumberland  falls. 
King.1  Doctor  !  Doctor  !  I've  killed  a  man. 
Doctors  voice  from  without.  More  like  a  monkey, 

and  stole  his  face. 

King.  Doctor !  Doctor  !  do  your  part, 
For  King  George  is  wounded  to  the  heart, 

1  There  is  an  obvious  blunder  here.  If  "King  George  is 
wounded  to  the  heart,"  then  he,  and  not  Northumberland, 
ought  to  fall,  and  the  dialogue  should  be  spoken  by  Northum- 



From  the  heart  to  the  knee  ; 

I'll  give  five  shillings  for  a  good  old  doctor  like  thee. 

Doctor.  I  shan't  come  for  five  shillings,  or  nothing 
like  it. 

King.  Ten  shillings,  then. 

Doctor.  That's  more  like  it. 

King.  Come  in,  Jack  Spinney  ! 

Enter  DOCTOR. 

My  name's  not  Jack  Spinney, 
My  name's  Mister  Spinney — 
A  man  of  great  pain, 
Do  more  than  you  or  any  man  again. 
King.  What  can  you  do  so  clever? 
Doctor.  Cure  the  magpie  of  toothache. 
King.  How  should  you  do  it  ? 
Doctor.  Cut  off  his  head  and  throw  his  body  in  the 

King.  Come  and  serve  this  man  the  same. 
Doctor.  In  comes  I,  old  Doctor  Good, 
Whose  hands  are  never  stained  with  blood. 

I'm  not  one  of  these  quick-quack  doctors.  I  come 
to  do  the  good  of  the  country,  both  to  ladies  and 

I  can  cure  the  hip,  the  pip, 
The  palsy  and  the  gout ; 
And  if  the  Old  Man's  in  that  man, 
I  can  fetch  him  out. 
I've   travelled   Old  England,   Scotland,  Wales,   and 

Take  one  of  my  soft  pills  and  rise  again. 

[Gives  pill)  and  Northumberland  rises. 
Come  in,  next  man. 




In  comes  I,  old  Beelzebub, 
On  my  shoulders  I  carry  my  club  ; 
In  my  hand  a  frying-pan; 
Don't  you  think  I'm  a  jolly  old  man  ? 
Come  in,  next  man. 

Enter  FAT  JACK. 

In  comes  I,  old  Fat  Jack, 

My  wife  and  family  at  my  back; 

My  wife's  so  big,  my  family  small, 

I've  brought  you  a  rattle  to  please  you  all. 

\They  all  dance  round  the  room.     Molly 

falls  down  and  groans. 
King.  My  wife  Susannah  looks  very  ill. 
Doctor.  What's  her  complaint  ? 
King.  Toothache,  I  think. 
Doctor.  Fetch  my  horse,  Jack. 
Fat  Jack.  I  shan't.     Fetch  it  yourself. 
Doctor.  What !      Keep   a   dog   and  bark   myself ! 
Fetch  him  this  minute.     (Fat  Jack  brings  up  one  of 
the  disengaged  characters,  and  Doctor  tries  to  get  on 
his  back  ;  he  plunges  about.)     Give  us  a  leg  up,  Jack. 
Woa  !  woa  !     (Doctor  is  thrown  off.)     Jack,  you  give 
my  horse  too  much  corn. 

Fat  Jack.  I  only  give  him  a  bean  and  a  half. 
Doctor.  That's  a  bean  too  much. 
Fat  Jack.  Feed  him  yourself  next  time. 
(Doctor  examines  Molly,    and  gets   out  a  pair  of 
pincers.)     Toothache,  you  think? 
King.  Yes. 
Doctor.  Just  come  and  give  a  pull  then.     (Takes 



hold  of  nail  which  Molly  has  sticking  out  of  her  mouth.} 
Pull!  (Fails  to  draw  it.)  That's  not  got  him.  Pull ! 
(Draws  out  nail.}  That's  got  him.  Why,  here's  a 
tooth  as  long  as  a  two-inch  nail,  and  got  roots  like  a 
poplar  tree.  I'll  put  that  in  my  pocket  for  a  keepsake. 
Bring  me  any  old  woman  that's  been  dead 

seven  years, 

Seven  years  laid  in  her  grave, 
She  could  rise  up  and  eat  bread  and  cheese 


Her  life  I  am  bound  to  save. 
I've  travelled  Old  England,  Scotland,  Wales, 

and  Spain, 
Take  one  of  my  pills  and  rise  again. 

[ Molly  takes  pill  and  rises. 


At  Bampton,  in  Oxfordshire,  the  follow- 
ing play  is  performed  at  Christmas  :— 


In  comes  I,  old  Father  Christmas, 

Welcome  in,  or  welcome  not ; 
And  I  hope  that  I,  old  Father  Christmas, 

Will  never  be  forgot. 

There's  a  time  for  work,  and  a  time  for  play, 
A  time  to  be  merry,  and  a  time  to  be  gay  ; 
A  time  to  be  tipsy,  a  time  to  be  free, 
It's  true  enough  this  Christmas-time  we  all  so  jovial  be. 
King  George,  the  Doctor,  and  the  Turk  will  here 

together  meet, 

The  Doctor  with  his  physic,  and  bright,  sharp  swords 



For  one  will  kill  the  other,  and  the  Doctor  will  raise 
him  up. 

How  happy  we  shall  be  with  our  regious  [?]  Christ- 

Bold  Robin  Hood  and  Little  John  will  pass  the  beer 
pot  round, 

Two  little  jovial  chaps  never  could  be  found. 

Come  in,  King  George. 


In  comes  I,  King  George ;  from  over  the  sea  I  came ; 
My  name  it  is  King  George,  and  you  shall  hear  the  same. 
First  I  fought  in  France,  and  then  I  fought  in  Spain, 
Now  I  come  to  Old  England  to  fight  the  rich  Turk 

o'er  again. 

I  saw  the  rich  Turk  standing  by, 
He  took  an  oath  that  I  should  die. 
I  cut  him,  I  pierced  him,  and  brought  him  to  the 

And  by  that  means  I  married  the  King  of  Egypt's 



Turkish    Knight.    Here    comes    I,     the    Turkish 

Knight ; 

I've  come  from  Turkish  land  to  fight ; 
And  of  King  George,  if  he  be  here, 
I'll  make  his  heart  both  quake  and  fear. 
King  George,  if  you  and  I  we  can't  agree, 
Pull  out  your  sword  and  fight  with  me. 

King  George.  I,  King  George,  will   pull   out   my 

sword  and  fight  with  thee ; 
I'll  pull  out  my  purse  and  pay ; 
We'll  have  good  satisfaction  before  we  go  away. 
321  x 


Turkish  Knight.  I  will  in  with  thee  for  life,  or  value 
thee  not ;  thou  must  give  up  sooner  or  later  on,  or 
else  no  more  room  for  immortality. 

So  mind  your  eyes  and  guard  your  blows, 
Or  else  I  tap  you  on  the  nose. 

[They  fight,  and  Turkish  Knight  falls. 

King  George.  Two  hundred   pounds  would  I  put 


If  there's  a  doctor  to  be  found.  \_JVo  answer. 

Three  hundred  pounds  would  I  put  down 
If  there's  a  doctor  to  be  found.        [A  knock  is  heard. 
Who's  there? 

Doctor.  The  Doctor. 

King  George.  Come  in,  Doctor.  Where  dost  thou 
come  from,  good  Doctor  ? 

Doctor.  Italy,  Sitaly  [Sicily],  Germany,  France,  and 

Spain ; 
There  is  my  home,  there  I  return  again. 

King  George.  What  sort  of  disease  do  thy  pills 
cure,  good  Doctor  ? 

Doctor.  All  sorts  of  disease. 
The  itch,  the  stitch,  the  palsy,  and  the  gout, 
Pains  within  and  pains  without. 
I'll  also  cure  the  magpie  of  toothache. 

King  George.  How  do  you  do  that,  Doctor  ? 

Doctor.  Why,  cut  his  head  off  and  throw  his  body 
in  the  ditch.  Or  bring  to  me  an  old  woman  seventy 
years  dead,  seventy-seven  years  laid  in  her  grave ;  if 
she  can  raise  up  her  head  and  crack  one  of  my 
wimple-pimple  pills,  I  lay  a  fifty-pound  bond  from  all 
human  ills  her  life  to  save.  If  there's  another  quack 
doctor  in  the  land,  and  can  do  any  more  than  I  can, 
just  let  him  come  and  raise  this  dead  man. 

Come  in,  Jack  Finney. 



Jack  Finney.  Here  comes  I,  as  ain't  been  hit, 
With  my  big  head  and  little  wit ; 
My  head's  too  big,  my  wit  too  small, 
I  will  endeavour  to  please  you  all. 
Ladies  and  gentlemen,  my  name  is  not  Jack  Finney. 
Doctor.  Then  what  is  thy  name  ? 
Jack  Finney.  Mr.  Finney,  a  man  of  great  fame  ; 
I  does  more  work  than  thee  or  any  other  man. 
Doctor.  Then  what  can'st  thou  do  ? 
Jack  Finney.   I'll  cure  this  man  if  he's  not  quite 


So  being  the  case  as  it  was  before, 
My  bold  fellow,  rise  up  thy  head  and  fight  once  more. 
Come  in,  Tom  the  Tinker. 
Tom.  Here  comes  I,  old  Tom  the  Tinker  ; 
I  am  no  small-beer  drinker. 
I  told  the  landlord  to  his  face 
The  chimney-corner  was  his  place, 
And  there  he  sat  and  dried  his  face, 
Old  Tom  Giles  and  I. 
My  face  is  black,  my  beard  is  long, 
My  hat's  tied  on  with  a  bratten  thong. 
Ladies  and  gentlemen,  give  me  a  copper  or  two  to 
get  a  shave  and  go  to  church  on  Sunday. 

As  I  was  going  down  a  narrow,  wide,  straight, 
crooked  lane,  I  met  a  white  pig  with  a  long  horse's 
mane.  I  went  a  bit  farther  and  came  to  a  pig-sty, 
tied  up  to  an  elder  bush,  built  with  apple-dumplings, 
and  slated  with  pancakes.  I  thought  'twas  all  good 
for  trade. 

I  knocked  at  the  maid, 

And  out  fled  the  door ; 

The  pig  began  to  shake, 

And  the  house  began  to  grunt  and  roar. 



She  asked  me  if  I  could  eat  a  half-pint  of  good  ale 
and  drink  a  crust  of  cheese.  I  said  "  No,  thank 
you,"  but  "  Yes,  if  you  please."  I  went  a  bit  farther, 
and  comes  to  two  old  women  a  snip-snopping.  One 
cut  a  barley-corn  through  a  ten-foot  wall,  and  then 
cut  the  bottom  out  of  a  cast  iron  pot.  The  other 
killed  a  poor  dead  dog.  I  took  pity  on  this  poor 
dead  dog.  I  turned  him  inside  outwards,  strap  band 
outwards ;  took  him  on  top  of  Buckland  Hill,  barking 
backwards,  throwed  him  in  a  dry  ditch  and  drowned 

Thus  ends  the  first  part  of  this  strange 

The  second  part  commences  with  the 
entrance  of  Father  Christmas. 


Room !  a  room  !  a  rhyme  please  to  give  me,  and 
my  brave  gallant  comrades  room  to  rhyme,  to  rhyme 
this  merry  Christmas-time.  Apt  to  the  aged,  apt  to 
the  life,  like  was  never  seen  or  done  upon  a  common 
stage.  Stage  or  no  stage— stage  of  King  George — 
come  in,  thou  Royal. 


King.  Here  comes  I,  the  Royal  of  Prussia  King, 
bound  to  defend  all  Christians  from  all  harm.  I  care 
for  no  man,  neither  Austrian,  Spanish,  French,  Dutch, 
nor  Turks.  I'm  sure  no  man  will  do  me  harm.  Let 
all  their  voices  raise  the  ring,  I  am  the  Royal  of 
Prussia  King. 

Come  in,  thou  soldier  bold. 


Enter  SOLDIER. 
Soldier.    In    comes    I,    the    soldier    bold,    Bold 

Slaughterer  is  my  name, 
With  sword  and  sash  hung  by  my  side,  I  hope  to  win 

the  game. 

Where  is  the  man  that  bids  me  stand, 
Who  swore  he'd  kill  me  sword  in  hand  ? 
I'd  cut  him,  and  pierce  him  as  small  as  flies, 
And  send  him  to  Jamaica  to  make  mince-pies, 
Mince-pies  hot,  mince-pies  cold, 
I'd  send  the  cook  to  fetch  him  before  he's  nine  days  old 

I  count  myself  as  good  as  thee. 

King  George.  So  does  I  as  good  as  thee. 
So  battle,  to  battle,  let  thee  and  I  try 
To  see  which  on  the  ground  dead  first  shall  lie. 
So  mind  your  eyes  and  guard  your  blows, 
Or  else  I'll  tap  you  on  the  nose. 

[They  fight,    and    the    Soldier    Bold   of 
Prussia  falls. 

King  George.  Is  there  a  doctor  in  the  land 
That'll  cure  this  man  that's  on  the  ground  ? 

Doctor.  Yes,  there's  a  doctor  in  the  land, 
Capable  of  head  and  hand ; 
And  if  this  man  has  got  a  cough, 
I'll  cure  him  without  cutting  his  head  off. 
And  if  this  man  has  lost  his  head, 
I'll  put  a  donkey's  on  instead.    : 
And  if  this  man  will  pay  me  well, 
No  secret  will  I  ever  tell ; 
And  if  he  won't,  I'll  leave  him  as  a  sinner, 
And  he  shall  eat  a  bunch  of  thistles  for  his  Christmas- 



Such  being  the  case,  as  it  were  before, 
Raise  up  thy  head  and  fight  no  more. 
Come  in,  Bold  Robin  Hood. 

Robin  Hood.   Here  comes  I,   bold  Robin  Hood, 
with  bended  bow  of  yew-tree  wood,  my  arrows 
sharp,  and  for  my  quiver 
I'll  choose  an  elderly  man's  good  fat  liver. 
Down  under  the  greenwood  tree, 
Merrily  I  come  to  thee, 
To  hunt  the  deer  with  horn  and  hound, 
And  bring  our  joys  this  way. 
And  when  we  get  the  nut-brown  ale, 
We'll  start  the  hunting  day. 
Come  in,  brave  Little  John. 
Little  John.  Here  comes  I,  brave  Little  John, 
With  my  quarter-staff  I'll  play  the  Don ; 
I'm  not  the  man  to  cheat  your  cousin, 
But  knock  men's  brains  out  by  the  dozen. 
Last  Christmas-eve  I  turned  the  spit, 
Burnt  my  ringers,  and  finds  on't  yet. 
The  skimmer  run  after  the  ladle, 
The  sparks  fled  over  the  table. 
Ho  !  ho  !  said  the  gridiron,  can't  you  two  agree  ? 
Then,  Oh,  ho !  said  he,  I'm  the  Justice,  come,  bring 

him  to  me. 

Come  all  ye  jolly  comrades,  come  listen  unto  me, 
It's  my  belief,  and  join  with  us  this  merry  Christmas- 

For  what  I've  said  and  done  will  please  the  corum, 
And  I'll  drink  all  your  honours  in  a  jorum. 

So  ends  this  curious  piece  of  mummery. 





First  for  the  stockings,  and  then  for  the     shoes,  And 

jr   "ff h 



then     for    the       bon  -  ny     green    gar   -   -   ters ;    A 
pair      for      me,      and       a      pair    for    you,  And    a 

pair  for     them      that     come     ar  -  -  ter. 


Oh,       my     Bil  -    ly,      my      con  -  stant  Bil  -  ly, 

When  shall      I      see         my      Bil-  ly        a-   gain? 


When     the  fish  -  es    fly         o  -  ver    the  mountains,  Oh, 
then      you    will     see    your         Bil  -  ly       a  -  gain. 

Once    they  said       my  lips     were        red, 

Now    they're  scar    -  let  pale,  When 

like         a  sil     -      ly    girl  be  - 

liev'd       his      flatt'   -  ring  tale,  For    he 

vow'd      he'd   ne  -  ver    de    -    ceive         me,  And    so 

fond    -     ly  I  be    -    liev'd        he  While  the 



stars  and  the  moon     so  sweet  -  ly      shone, 


i                     1  1 

5T          J 




K  : 



J    •                II 



9                     \\ 

O  -  ver      the     wil      -     low          tree. 


I          won't    be  my        fa    -    ther's  Jack,     And 


I        won't        be  my      mo  -  ther's    Jill,         But 


I         will      be         some        fid  -    dler's   wife,       Then 

-g , Nr-nr—1 


we         can         muse          it          at          our     will ; 

T'o-ther  lit  -    tie    tune,          t'o-ther  lit   -  tie     tune, 

Bob         at  night,       and       Bob          at     noon. 






There      are          fif     -    ty        fair      maid  -  ens      that 

sport  on  the  green,      I      gaz'd  on  them  well      as    you 

see;     . 

But      the   Maid  of     the   Mill,      the 

Maid  of    the   Mill,      The   Maid    of    the      Mill  for 



me.  She      is          straight      and    tall       as        a 

pop    -    lar    tree,      Her     cheeks      are    red    as       a 


rose ;   .    .    .    .       She      is        one     of    the    fairest  young 

girls    I   see,       h  •     dress'd  in    her  Sun  -  day    clothes. 


(As  sung  at  Queen's  College,  Oxford], 



The     Boar's    head    in  hand  bear   I,       be-deck'd  with 

bays    and  rose  -  ma  -  ry,  And  I     pray   you,  mas  -  ters,  be     mer- 

ry,       Qui        es    -    tis    -    in          con  -  vi     -     vi    -    o. 




L _cn Lc-^L^jL^jJL^ii.yrsSiar 

Ca-put    a  -  pri     de  -  fe  -  ro,     Red-dens  lau-des  Do  -  mi  -  no. 

Ca-put    a  -  pri      de  -  fe  -  ro,     Red-dens  lau-des  Do  -  mi  -  no. 

Ca-put    a  -  pri      de  -  fe  -  ro,     Red-dens  lau-des  Do  -  mi  -  no. 

Ca-put    a  -  pri      de  -  fe  -  ro,     Red-dens  lau-des  Do  -  mi  -  no. 


The  Boar's  head,  as    I       un  -  der  -  stand,  Is  the  brav  -  est 

rp .^—^-^ — f   ?  .  &    (O 

g±^TF— P]I    I]  iPr1]^^ 

dish     in     all    the  land,  When  thus  be-deck'd  with  a    gay  gar- 

land,       Let      us        ser    -    vi    -    re       can     -    ti    -    -    co. 





Our  stew  -  ard  hath      pro  -  vi  -  ded  this,      In    ho  -  nour 

vi       [1 1    .    I    I- — I — F— — — I          — 

of       the   King  of    Bliss,  Which  on  this  day    to  be    ser  -  ved 



is          In      Re   -    gi    -    nen  -  si  A     -     tri    -    o. 




Abbots  Ann,  173 
Aberford,  16,  29 
Accrington,  203 
Agganowing,  44 
Aldeby,  234 
Aldermaston,  242 
Aldershot,  247 
Allan  Day,  171 
Allerton,  131 
All  Fools'  Day,  93 
All  Hallow  Eve,  166 
All  Souls'  Day,  28,  167 
All  Saints'  Day,  166 
Alnwick,  65,  236 
Ambleside,  132 
Angelus,  238 
Anglesey,  79 

Animals  on  Christmas  night, 
Anthem  singing,  282 
Appleby,  251 
Apple  trees,  46,  47 
Apples,  171 
Army  customs,  286 
Arval  bread,  203 
Ascension  Day,  115,  117 
Ashover  Church,  174 
Ashton-under-Lyne,  87,  130 
Auction  customs,  242 

BAAL  fires,  142 
Bacon,  175 
Baldon,  61 

Bamborough  Castle,  279 
Bampton,  99,  124 
Banbury,  166 
Banffshire,  45 

Barford  customs,  121 

Barring  out,  24 

Barrowden,  133 

Bartlehill,  255 

Basingstoke,  39 

Bath,  73 

Beccles,  234 

Beckets,  301 

Beckley,  160 

Bedfordshire,  71,  233 

Beehives,  putting  crape  on,  204 

Bells,  232  ;  at  executions,  280  ; 
at  New  Year,  21,  22  ;  pan- 
cake bell,  60  ;  passing  bell, 
20,  201 

Beltane  fires,  144 

Bequests,  curious,  277 

Berkshire,  9,  55,  60,  155,  161, 
179,  250 

Berkshire  Regiment,  288,  291 

Bermondsey,  164 

Berwick,  211 

Bibles,  raffling  for,  252 

Biddenden,  81,  158 

Biewell,  Barony  of,  302 

Birmingham,  248 

Births,  royal,  266 

Biscuits,  funeral,  202 

Bishops  Lydeard,  197 

Bisley,  188 

Black  cap,  215 

Black-Lad,  riding  the,  87 

Blackpool,  130 

Black  Watch  Highlanders,  298 

Blenheim  Palace,  300 

Bletherhead  bands,  14 

Blue  Coat  School  custom,  76 



Boar's  Head  feast,  22-24 

Bodmin,  236 

Bolton,  105 

Borough  English,  212 

Boston,  210 

Bottle-kicking,  85 

Boundary-riding,  227 

Bounds,  beating  the,  115 

Boxing  Day,  35 

Bradford,  13,  131 

Braunceston,  138 

Breast  laws,  208 

Bridestowe,  63 

Bridgled,  183 

Bridgwater,  205 

Brighouse,  131 

Brighton,  74,  170 

Brightwalton,  103 

Brindle  custom,  128 

Bristol,  210 

Brittany,  143 

Brixham,  252 

Bromyard,  238 

Buckinghamshire,  71,  198,  251 

Buffs,  the,  293 

Bull-baiting,  279 

Burchester,  304 

Burgh  ead,  30 

Burial  customs,  201 

Bury,  69 

Bury  St.  Edmunds,  236 

Butchers  serenading,  172 

Buxton,  1 88 

CAKES,  33,  34,  68,  166  ;  Simnel, 


Calening,  46 
Cam  borne,  172 
Cambridge,  98,  236 
Cambridgeshire,  17,  48,  73 
Candle  sale,  242 
Care  Sunday,  70 
Carfax,  236 
Carlton,  East,  303 
Carnarvonshire,  79,  236 
Carnbrea  Hill,  143 
Cam  Galver,  143 
Cam  Martle,  143 


Carols,  1 6 

Castle  an  Dinas,  143 

Castor  whip  tenure,  306 

Catterning,  169 

Chaff  scattering,  195 

Chaldecote,  108 

Channel  Islands,  207 

Charleston,  237 

Charlton  on  Otmoor,  100 

Charm,  old,  250 

Cheltenham,  98 

Chertsey,  238 

Cheshire,  26,  80,  120,  168,  237 

Cheshire  Regiment,  296 

Chester,    County    Palatine    of, 


Chester-le-Street,  6$ 
Chewidder,  30 
Chichester,  303 
Chiltern  Hundreds,  270 
Chimney-sweeps'  customs,  99 
Chingford,  306 
Chorley,  129 
Christmas,  8,   25,  277  ;  boxes, 

35 ;  cards,  36  ;  gift  books,  35  ; 

tree,    19 ;    watching   animals, 


Christ's  Hospital,  London,  88 
Church  Calendar,  7 
Churchdown,  234 
Churches,  clipping  of,  66 
Church  Minshull,  60 
City  Companies'  Halls,  223 
Civic  customs,  220 
Claire,  30 

Clameur  de  Haro,  206 
Clavering,  277 
Clayton,  131 
Clemmening,  169 
Clifton  custom,  loo 
Clipping  of  churches,  66 
Club  feasts,  123 
Clyack,  151 

Coldstream  Guards,  293 
Colchester,  226 
Coleshill,  86 
Colne,  setting  the,  227 
Common  riding,  118 


Coningston,  Barony  of,  304 

Conservancy,  Court  of,  226 

Coquille,  64 

Corby,  243 

Cornwall,  14,  17,  1 8,  20,  29,  33, 

52,    53,   67,    105,    140,    142, 

152,  183,  197,  200 
Cornwall  Light  Infantry,  297 
Coronation  customs,  261 
Coronation  stone,  264 
Corpse  roads,  204 
Country  dances,  127 
Court  customs,  50,  72,  256 
Court-leets,  211 
Court  of  Exchequer,  212 
Courts  of  justice,  ceremonial  at, 


Court  of  pied-poudre,  209 
Courtship  customs,  198 
Coventry,  245 
Coychurch,  183 
Cradle-land  tenure,  213 
Cradle     presented    to    Mayor, 


Cranfield,  233 
Crewkerne,  240 
Crowan,  197 

Culworth,  60,  233,  234,  239 
Cumberland,  25,  248 
Curfew  bell,  234 
Curious  doles,  277 
Customs,  old,  decay  of,  I ;  causes 

of  decay,   I  ;  survival  of,  3 ; 

origin  of,  5-7 


Dalton-in-Furness,  249 

Dancing  on  Good  Friday,  74 

Daventry,  233 

Death  ride,  129 

Delaval  Avenue  (Northumber- 
land), 253 

Denhohne,  131 

Denton,  108 

Derby,  183 

Derbyshire,  18,  174,  186,  203, 

Desford,  148 

Devil's  passing  bell,  232 

Devonshire,  II,  47,  152 

Dewsbury,  20,  232 

Dockyard  customs,  170 

Donnington,  109 

Doos,  Yule,  33 

Dorking,  66,  179 

Dorsetshire,  156,  179 

Drakelow,  303 

Driffield,  155,  234 

Dronfield,  277 

Dumping,  155 

Dunchurch,  214 

Duncton,  46  9 

Dunford,  17,  56,  107,  154 

Dungannon,  211 

Dunmow,  177 

Dunmow  flitch,  175 

Duns,  66 

Dunstable,  71 

Durham,  236 

Durham,  Bishop  of,  304 

Durham  Cathedral  custom,  121 

Durham,    County    Palatine    of, 

Dyers'  Company,  225 


Easter  customs,  78 

Eccles,  166 

Eccleshall,  14 

Eddinbury,  197 

Eddlesborough,  71,  102,  120 

Edinburgh,  38 

Edmonton,  213 

Eggs^  78 ;    clapping    for,    79  ; 

rolling,  80 
Ely,  211 

Ely,  County  Palatine  of,  304 
Enderby,  146 
Endon,  186 
Enfield,  164 
Enthroning,  263 
Epiphany  custom,  256 
Ep worth,  241 
Essex,  30 

Eton  School,  87,  89 
Ever  ton,  166 



Exeter,  236 

Gingerbread  fairs,  248 

Eyam,  200 

Gipsy  custom,  254 

Glamorganshire,  183 

FAIRS,  244 

Glaston,  54 

Farnham,  247 

Gleaning  bell,  234 

Farnham  Royal,  277,  300 
Feasten  Sunday,  140 

Glentham,  280 
Gloucestershire,  68,  106 

Felton,  255 

Gloves  in  churches,  174 

Felsted,  277 

Gloves,  kid,  277 

Feist  ed,  Barony  of,  302 

Godiva,  Lady,  245 

Festivals,  7 

Godolphin  Hill,  143 

Feudalism,  relic  of,  249 

Good  Friday,  72 

Figs,  278 

Goodening,  26 

Fig  Sunday,  71 

Gooding,  26,  171 

First-footing,  37,  288 

Gosforth,  5 

Fishermen's  customs,  30 

Goulgrave,  183 

Flamborough,  174 

Grasmere,  133 

Flitch  of  bacon,  305 

Gray's  Inn,  216 

Flower  sermon,  140 

Great    Gransden,   27,   48,    107, 

Folkstone,  164 


Football,  64,  66 

Great   St.   Mary's,   Cambridge, 

Footing,  pay  one's,  252 


Forebridge,  277 

Great  Wakering,  234 

Foy,  283 

Greenham,  204 

Freemasons,  23 

Green's  Norton,  304 

Fritter-bell,  233 

Guild,  245 

Frumenty,  221 

Guild,  Preston,  228 

Fulham,  213  ;  Palace,  241 

Guildford,  74,  209,  211,  281 

Funeral  customs,  201 

Guisers,  14 

Funerals,  royal,  266 

Gunpowder  Plot,  160 

Furmety,  17,  29,  51,  69 

Guns,  firing,  under  apple  trees, 

Furnival,  Baron,  300 


Furry  dance,  ill 

Gunton,  200 

Fusiliers,  7th,  297 

Guy  Fawkes'  Day,  160 

Fusswaschung,  258 

HACKNEY,  213 

GANG  Week,  115 

Hallaton,  83 

Garlands,  101 
Garlands  in  churches,  174 

Hallering  largess,  154 
Hallowe'en,  166 

Gaudies,  224 

Halse,  197 

Gaunt,  John  of,  145 

Hampshire,  27,  52,  202 

Gavelkind,  213 

Hampstead,  163 

Gawthorpe,  109 

Handball,  66 

Geddingham,  240 

Harcake,  166 

Geese-dancers,  14 

Hare-hunting,  86 

Geese,  giving  of,  158 

Hare-scrambling,  83 

Giggleswick,  278 

Harlequinade,  35 

Gillingham,  234 

Harlington,  278 



Haro,  Clameur  de,  207 

Harvest  customs,  149 

Harvington,  29 

Hats,  burning,  200 

Hats  in  Parliament,  270 

Hawick  custom,  103 

Ha  worth,  138 

Haxey  Hood,  50 

Headington,  161 

Heaving,  90 

Helston,  58,  ill 

Hemswell,  109 

Hen,  threshing  the,  63 

Heriots,  215 

Hertfordshire,  73,  155,  234 

Hessle,  233 

Heston,  213 

Hey  wood,  130 

High  Roding,  55 

High  Town,  Scilly,  105 

Hiring  fairs,  247 

Hobby  ship,  103 

Hockney  Day,  91 

Hock-tide,  90 

Hogmanay,  44 

Holderness,  197 

Holy  Rood  Day,  247 

Hoodening,  27  ;  horse,  27  ;  bull, 


Hooset,  178 
Horn-blowing,  155 
Horn-dance,  139 
Hornsea,  25 
Horspeth  Church,  24 
Hot  cross  buns,  72 
Hoton,  Manor  of,  301 
Houghton-le-Spring,  174 
Houseling  cloth,  283 
Hull,  210 

Hungerford,  90,  144 
Huntingdon,  227 
Huntingdonshire,  48 
Hurling-matches,  57 
Hussars,    7th,   291 ;    8th,   292 ; 

loth,  287;    I4th,  292;   1 5th, 


INN-HOLDERS'  Company,  225 

Inniskilling  Fusiliers,  297 
Inkerman  Day,  290 
Ireland,  30,  129,  144,  183 
Islington,  213 
Islip,  54 

JACK  in  the  Green,  97,  99 
Jacobite  custom,  308 
Judas  Iscariot,  flogging,  76 


Kennet  Valley  custom,  128 

Kent,  27,  83,  194,  213,  252 

Kern  baby,  150,  159 

Kern  supper,  150 

Keys  of  Tower  of  London,  287 

Kidderminster,  238 

Kingsrigg,  255 

Kingscote,  28 

Kingston  Russell,  301 

Kirkby  Stephen,  236 

Kirkham,  240 

Kirk  Leatham,  234 

Kirton-on-Lindsay,  22,  232,  233 

Kissing,  197 

Kissing  bunch,  18 

Knack,  152 

Knightlow,  214 

Knill's  bequest,  284 

Knutsford,  194 

LA  BARR,  303 

Lambeth,  213 

Lammas  Day,  149 

Lancashire,  37,  69,  80,  105,  130, 

165,  167,  199,  205 
Lancashire  Regiment,  294 
Lancers,  I2th,  custom,  287 
Langwathby  Rounds,  180 
Leeds,  15 

Legal  customs,  206 
Leicester,  86,  146 
Leicester,    St.    Mary's    Parish, 

Leicestershire,  51,  54,  69,  106, 


Leigh,  22 
Leighford,  140 



Leinster  Regiment,  294 

Lent,  277 

Lenten  customs,  59 

Lichfield  custom,  117 

Lincolnshire,  29,  49,  247 

Lion  sermon,  282 

London,  50,  75,  119,  220,  262, 
266,  279  ;  St.  Clement  Dane's 
Church,  168;  St.  James's 
Church,  Aldgate,  140;  St. 
Leonard's  Church,  Shore- 
ditch,  140 

Long  Rope  Day,  74 

Lord  Mayor's  show,  220 

Love  feasts,  279 

MADRON  Well,  183 
Magdalen  College  custom,  96 
Maiden,  the,  151 
Maid-servants,  bequest  for,  281 
Maidstone,  233 
Man,  Isle  of,  30,  44,  154,  207, 


Manchester,  20 
Maplescaump,  304 
Marbles  on  Good  Friday,  74 
Market  Bosworth,  171 
Market  Drayton,  203,  244 
Market  Overton,  54 
Marlborough,  116 
Marlborough,  Duke  of,  300 
Marriage  customs,  190 
Marrow  bones,  172 
Martinsell,  70 
Marylebone,  164 
Maundy  gifts,  72 
Maundy  Thursday,  257 
May  Day  customs,  95,  144 
May  Day,  revival  of,  no 
Mayo,  20 1 

Mayoress'  chain,  230 
Maypole,  188 

Maypoles  still  standing,  108 
Meadow-mowing,  148 
Mell  sheaf,  150 
Mell  supper,  150 
Mercers'  Company  pageant,  221 
Mere  Down,  213 

Michaelmas,  158 

Midsummer  Eve,  141 

Midsummer  Day,  207 

Mince-pies,  19 

Minehead,  103,  194 

Minster  (Kent),  238 

Mischief  Night,  104 

Mistletoe,  17,  1 8 

Mock  mayors,  246 

Modbury,  210 

Modern  customs,  307 

Molly  Grime,  washing  of,  280 

Montem,  89 

Mop  fairs,  247 

Morecambe,  130 

Morley,  60 

Morning  dew,  103 

Morpeth,  236 

Morris  dancers,  129,  130  ;  melo- 
dies of,  327-333 

Mothering  Sunday,  67 

Mouldshaugh,  255 

Mumming,  9 ;  play,  plot  of,  10, 

Mumping,  25 

Municipal  customs,  226 

NAVENBY,  233 

Needle  and   thread  at  Queen's 

College,  Oxford,  41 
Neville's  Cross,  122 
Newbury,  246 

Newcastle,  183,  209,  210,  236 
Newington  by  Sittingbourne,  26 
Newport  (Isle  of  Wight),  236 
Newport  (Monmouthshire),  236 
Newport  (Shropshire),  14 
New  Year,  38;    at   Edinburgh 

Tron  Church,  38 ;  cards,  39 ; 

gifts,   40 ;    midnight  services, 

41  ;  at  Skipsea,  42 
Nickanan  night,  67 
Northallerton,  181 
Northampton,  108,  121 
Northern  Grammar  School,  88 
Northrepps,  57 
Northumberland,    70,   80,    150, 




Northumberland  Fusiliers,  294 
Northwich,  28 
Norton,  22 
Norwich,  64,  302 
Nottinghamshire,  43,  70,  120 

OAK  and  Nettle  Day,  120 

Oak  Apple  Day,  120,  233 

Oldham,  43,  104,  130,  131,  165 

Onion  fair,  247 

Orange  blossoms,  190 

Orchard  customs,  46 

Orwell,  108 

Oundle,  26 

Oxford,  96,  116,  117,  165,  224, 
263 ;  Christ  Church,  240 ; 
Jesus  College,  77  ;  Magdalen 
College,  95  ;  Queen's  College, 
22,  42  ;  St.  Mary's  Parish,  117 

Oxfordshire,  237 

"Oyes,"  249 

Oyster  feast,  226 

PACE  eggs,  78 

Pack  Monday  fair,  245 

Padiham,  203 

Padstow,  1 06,  172 

Pagan  customs,  4 

Palm  Sunday,  70,  282 

Pancake  bell,  60,  233 

Pancakes,  60-62,  283 

Pantomime,  34 

Parliament,  opening  of,  269 

Parliamentary  customs,  267 

Passing  bell,  20,  201,  239 

Passion  Sunday,  69 

Paul  Pitcher  Day,  53 

Peers,  introduction  of,  274 

Pembrokeshire,  203 

Penrith,  236 

Penzance,  105,  171,  183 

Pershore,  238 

Picrous  day,  29 

Piddle  Hinton,  277 

Pies,  in  Cornwall,   17 ;    mince, 

19;    fig,    68;    pudding,    83; 

hare,  83 
Pie-powder,  court  of,  209 

Pillory,  251 

Pinwells,  183 

Plays,     mumming,      10,     310; 

Plough  Monday,  48 ;  Easter, 


Ploughing  custom,  255 
Plough  Monday,  47 
Plum-pudding,  19 
Plums,  277 
Pole,  Manor  of,  303 
Polebrooke,  26,  109 
Polperro  custom,  106 
Pontypridd,  142 
Pop  ladies,  46 
Preston,  129,  228 
Preston  Brockhurst,  109 
Preston  Park,  80 
Primrose  Day,  307 
Privileges,  curious,  299 
Pudding,  plum,  19 
Pudding-bell,  234 
Pudding-pies,  83 
Purley,  60 


Queensbury,  131 

RABBIT  custom,  158 
Radnorshire,  68 
Raffling  for  Bibles,  253 
Rag  well,  183 

Railway-smiths'  custom,  170 
Rat  by,  144 
Reading,  281,  302 
Redmire,  109 
Redruth,  143 

Resurrection,  feast  of  the,  78 
Rice-throwing,  191 
Richmond,  166 
Ring,  wedding,  193 
Ripon,  236 
Rochdale,  130 
Rockland,  245 
Rogation  tide,  115 
Rossendale,  68 
Roundway  Hill,  71 
Royal  assent  to  Bills,  271 
Royal  births,  266 



Royal  Oak  Day,  120,  186 
Royal  Scots  Greys,  291 
Royal  Scots  Regiment,  288 
Royal  Welsh  Fusiliers,  289 
Rush-bearing,  131,  138 
Rye,  164 


St.  Agnes  Bickaw,  143 

St.  Albans,  46 

St.  Alkmund's,  188 

St.  Anne's  Day,  246 

St.  Bartholomew,  131 

St.  Bartholomew's  Church  cus- 
tom, 75 

St.  Clement's  Day,  168 

St.  Colomb,  58 

St.  Constantine,  76 

St.  Crispin's  Day,  159 

St.  Cross,  Hospital  of,  285 

St.  David's  Day,  76,  289 

St.  George,  pageant  of,  9 

St.  George's  Day,  294 

St.  Gregory's  Day,  278 

St.  Ives,  57,  171,  252,  284 

St.  James's  Palace,  50 

St.  Just,  200 

St.  Katherine  Cree  Church, 

St.  Mark's  feast,  89 

St.  Mary's,  Leicester,  116 

St.  Mary  Cray,  no 

St.  Mary  Woolnoth  Church,  89 

St.  Oswald's  Day,  133 

St.  Paul's,  Bedford,  233 

St.  Paul's  Day,  53 

St.  Peter's  Day,  133,  138 

St.  Roche's  Well,  183 

St.  Roch's  Day,  149 

St.  Sepulchre's  Church,  280 

St.  Stephen's  Day,  31-33 

St.  Thomas  Day,  25 

St.  Valentine's  Day,  53-57 

Saltash  custom,  104 

Salt  cellar,  225 

Sandhurst,  234 

Sandin  fee  court,  92 

Sandwich,  235 

Santer,  29 

Scarborough,  159 

School  customs,  87 

Scotland,  151,  152,  155,  237,  239 

Scots  Greys,  291 

Scrambling  for  bread  and  cheese, 


Seamen's  charity,  279 
Searching  the  House,  268 
Sedgefield,  64 
Seighford,  140 
Selkirk  custom,  118 
Sellack  and  King's  Capel,  282 
Selsby,  68 

Serjeanty,  Grand,  299 
Sermons,  282 
Sharleton,  204 
Shellfish,  gathering,  76 
Sherborne,  245 
Sherburn,  29 
Shitsack  Day,  1 20 
Shoes,  throwing,  193 
Sholey,  303 
Shooting  the  bride,  20 1 
Shrewsbury,  34,  166 
Shrivenham,  301 
Shropshire,   67,    90,    167,   168, 

201,  218 

Shrove  Tuesday,  59 
Shroving,  60 
Silbury  Hill,  71 
Simnel  Sunday,  69 
Sin-eater,  202 
Skimmenton  riding,  178 
Skinners'  Company,  224 
Skipping  on  Good  Friday,  74 
Skipsea,  42 
Skip-skop  night,  172 
Slaves,  redemption  of,  280 
Somerset,  197,  239 
Soul  bell,  201,  239 
Souling,  167 
South  Pool,  280 
Southwark,  244 
Speaker,  installation  of,  272 
Spelsbury  custom,  101 
Spur  peal,  196,  232 
Spy  Wednesday,  72 



Staffordshire,  14, 26, 139, 168, 
Stang,  riding  the,  180 
Stockton,  278 
Stoke  Courcy,  194 
Stoke  Gabriel,  12 
Stoneyhurst,  52 
Stoulton,  26,  69 
Stourbridge,  244 
Stratford  on  Avon,  196,  247 
Strathfieldsaye,  300 
Straw  boys,  201 
Stuart  kings,  308 
Sturbridge  fair,  209 
Suffolk,  51,  56,  118,  153 
Suffolk  Regiment,  294 
Superstitions,  6 
Surrey,  47,  156 
Sussex,  15,  74,  169,  215 
Swalcliffe,  234 
Swineshead,  232 


Tadmarton,  234 

Taking  Day,  197 

Tat  worth,  243 

Tennor  Church,  20 

Tenures,  curious,  300 

Thornton,  131 

Thump,  the,  131 

Tibenham,  234 

Tides,  131 

Tipteerers,  15 

Tissington,  184 

Toddington,  233 

Tolls,  210 

Tolsey  Court,  210 

Tommying,  26 

Torquay,  119 

Tower  of  London  keys,  287 

Town  and  Gown  rows,  165 

Tree,  Christmas,  19 

Tregonan  Hill,  143 

Truro,  58 

Turvey,  233 

Tutti  men,  91 

Twelfth  Night,  46 

Tynwald  Hill,  208 

Ty thing  men,  91 

239      VALENTINES,  54 

Veal  on  Mothering  Sunday,  69 
Vessel  bones,  15 
Veil,  bride's,  193 
Vienna,  258 
Vintners'  Company,  22 

WAKE  Sunday,  130,  139 

Wakes,  130 

Waking  bees,  205 

Waking  servants,  241 

Wales,  32,  63,  71,  79,  90,  141, 

183,  200,  202 
Walmer,  27 
Walsingham,  188 
Waltham  on  the  Wolds,  238 
Warcop,  138 
Ware  farm,  56 
Warton,  243 
Warwickshire,  90 
Washing  of  feet,  257 
Wassailing,  42,  46 
Wassailing  bowl,  28 
Watford  custom,  107 
Weavers'  Company,  278 
Wedding  ring,  193 
Welford,  109 
Well-dressing,  184 
Wellington,  167 
Wellington,  Duke  of,  300 
Wellow,  1 08 
Wells,  22,  182 
Welsh  Fusiliers,  289 
Wesley  box,  16 
Westbere,  278 
Westbury,  281 
West  Houghton,  131,  232 
Westminster,  263 
Westminster     School,     tossing 

pancake  at,  62 
Westmoreland,  196 
Wheat,  funeral,  205 
Wheatley  custom,  102 
Whichnor,  Manor  of,  305 
Whitechurch  Canonicorum,  180 
White  Thursday,  29 
Whitsuntide,  123 
Whitworth,  138 



Wilmslow,  80 

Wiltshire,  66,  70,  71,  120,  178 
Wiltshire  Regiment,  287 
Winchester,  210,  236,  285 
Wiping  shoes,  252 
Wirksworth,  183 
Wishford  custom,  12 1 
Wishing  wells,  188 
Witch's  obelisk,  253 
Withernsea,  254 
Witney,  100,  278 
Wokingham,  233,  279 
Woodchester,  22 
Woodstock,  234 
Woolsack,  origin  of,  275 
Worcestershire,  16,  33,  51,  69,  73 
Worksop   Manor,  privileges  of, 

Wotton-under-Edge,  68 

Wren  box,  32 

Wren,  stoning  the,  30 ;  hunting 

the,  31 

Wyfold  Court,  306 
Wyverton  Hall,  49 

YAPTAM,  278 

Yarmouth,  210,  303 

Yarmouth  (Isle  of  Wight),  43 

York,  230 

Yorkshire,    13,   15,   17,  49,   52, 

70,  79,  89,  150,  199,  202,  204, 

240,  247 

Yorkshire  Regiment,  294 
Youlgrave,  188 
Yule,  30  ;  log,  9  ;  doos,  33 


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Edinburgh  and  London. 






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LOUISE  DE  LA  VALLIERE.     (Double  volume.) 

THE    MAN    IN    THE    IRON   MASK.    (Double 

NANON.    (Double  volume.)    ' 




THE  THREE  MUSKETEERS.   (Double  volume.) 
TWENTY  YEARS   AFTER.    (Double  volume.) 

Methuen's  Sixpenny  Books. 

Medium  %>vo> 

AlbanesI    (E.   Maria).     LOVE    AND 


Anstey  (F.).    A  BAYARD  OF   BENGAL. 
Austen  (J.).    PRIDE  AND  PREJUDICE. 

Bagot  (Richard).  A  ROMAN  MYSTERY. 

Balfour   (Andrew).     BY    STROKE    OF 

Baring-Gould  [S.J.    I 





A  BOOK  OF  FAIRY  TALES.    Illustrated. 








Barr  (Robert).    JENNIE  BAXTER. 

Benson  (E.  F.).    DODO. 

Bronte  (Charlotte).    SHIRLEY. 

Brownell   (C.   L.)-      THE    HEART    OF 

Burton  (J.  Bloundelle).    ACROSS    THE 

Caffyn  (Mrs.)-    ANNE  MAULEVERER. 

Capes    (Bernard).      THE    LAKE    OF 

Clifford    (Mrs.  W.    K.).     A  FLASH  OF 


Corbett    (Julian)-     A     BUSINESS    IN 

Croker  (Mrs.  B.  M.).    ANGEL. 

Dante    (Alighierl).     THE    DIVINE 
COMEDY  (Gary). 

Doyle  (A.  Conan).    ROUND  THE  RED 

Duncan  (Sara  Jeannette).    A  VOYAGE 


Eliot    (George).    THE  MILL  ON  THE 

Findlater    (Jane    H.).     THE    GREEN 

Gallon  (Tom).    RICKERBY'S  FOLLY. 

Gaskell  (Mrs.).    CRANFORD. 

Gerard   (Dorothea).      HOLY    MATRI- 


Gissing  (G.).  THE  TOWN  TRAVELLER. 

Glanville    (Ernest).     THE    INCA'S 



Gleig  (Charles).    BUNTER'S  CRUISE. 

Grimm     (The    Brothers).       GRIMM'S 


Hope  (Anthony).    A  MAN  OF  MARK. 




Hornung  f 

W.).     DEAD  MEN  TELL 

Ingraham  (J.  H.).    THE  THRONE  OF 

Le   Queux   (W.).     THE   HUNCHBACK 

Levett- Yeats  (S.  K.).    THE  TRAITOR'S 

Linton    (E.    Lynn).     THE  TRUE   HIS- 

Lyall  (Edna).    DERRICK  VAUGHAN. 

Malet  (Lucas).    THE  CARISSIMA. 

Mann    (Mrs.    M.    E.).      MRS.    PETER 


Marchmont   (A.  W.).     MISER  HOAD- 


Marryat  (Captain).    PETER  SIMPLE. 

March  (Richard).  A  METAMORPHOSIS. 

Mason  (A.  E.  W.).    CLEMENTINA. 

Mathers  (Helen).    HONEY. 
Meade  (Mrs.  L.  T.).    DRIFT. 
Miller  (Esther).  •  LIVING  LIES. 
Mitford  (Bertram).  THE  SIGN  OF  THE 

Montresor  (F.  F.).   THE  ALIEN. 


Morrison  (Arthur).     THE    HOLE    IN 

Nesblt  (E.).    THE  RED  HOUSE. 

Norris  (W.  E.).    HIS  GRACE. 

Oliphant  (Mrs.).    THE  LADY'S  WALK. 

Oppenheim  (E.  P.).    MASTER  OF  MEN. 

Parker  (Gilbert).    THE  POMP  OF  THE 



Pemberton   (Max).    THE   FOOTSTEPS 


Phillpotts  (Eden).    THE  HUMAN  BOY. 

Couch)-  THE 

Ridge  (W.  Pett).  A  SON  OF  THE  STATE. 




Russell  (W.  Clark).    ABANDONED. 

Sergeant  (Adeline).    THE  MASTER  OF 


Sldgwick  (Mrs.   Alfred).    THE   KINS- 

Surtees  (R.  S.).    HANDLEY  CROSS. 


Walford  (Mrs.  L.  B.).    MR.  SMITH. 




Wallace  (General  Lew).    BEN-HUR. 

Watson  (H.  B.  Marriott).    THE  ADVEN- 


Weekes  (A.  B.).    PRISONERS  OF  WAR. 

Wells  (H.  G.).    THE  SEA  LADY. 

White  (Percy).    A  PASSIONATE   PIL-